SuitSat: Hacking for Outer Space

Science Technology
SuitSat: Hacking for Outer Space

SuitSat is one of the best examples of fashion hacking and recycling old apparel that I have ever seen. Russia often disposes of space suits by throwing them into outer space to burn up in the atmosphere. The suits take 6-7 months to burn up. Since the suit is already being launched into space, some ham radio operators thought why not house a satellite inside, where it will be protected for 6-7 months before the suit burns up in the atmosphere. Hence SuitSat was born. The first SuitSat was launched into space on September 7, 2006 when astronauts aboard the ISS pushed SuitSat I into space.

Currently, volunteer ham radio operators around the world are working to launch a second SuitSat in Spring 2010. With some recent changes, this homemade satellite won’t actually be housed in a discarded space suit. A special structure is being developed to meet new space and safety concerns. Plans are for SuitSat III to be housed in a suit. SuitSat II will transmit on four frequencies:

1. The satellite will send an audio recording broadcasting the name and call sign of the satellite, the telemetry values of the battery, some temperatures, and greetings from children around the world on 2 meter FM (which can be heard with handheld radios and most scanners). With this will also be SSTV still images from onboard cameras.
2. The satellite will broadcast CW (Morse code) signals with the satellite ID, satellite call sign and call signs from people who have contributed to the ARISS program.
3. The satellite will send BPSK data containing full telemetry and data from experiments contributed by universities.
4. The satellite will also have 16 kHz wide transponder (similar to a repeater) with a 70 cm uplink and 2m downlink SSB allowing multiple contacts to be made at the same time (like on other satellites, AO-7, FO-29, and VO-52).

SuitSat II will have an experiment contributed by Kursk State Technical University which measures the vacuum the satellite experiences as it gets increasingly closer to earth. The most exciting part of SuitSat is that future experiment will be contributed by the public – hackers like you! The devices will be powered for 2 minutes each orbit with +5V at a maximum of 100mA. They will be provided 2 seconds to download 2k of data at 9600 bps over an RS-485 link. NASA is developing a process for submitting experiments, so start dreaming up ideas. I know I already have a few in mind.


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Fashion + Technology Diana was a contestant on Project Runway season 2, graduated from RISD, and currently lives in New York City.

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