This post is about a very interesting thing that I came across only today.
Picture this. You are an engineer aboard the International Space Station on an expedition. Suddenly you find that a few things that you were using have become out of order and are of no use to you any more. What would you do?? You got to do something about the trash right, can't keep collecting it.
Normally, people on the ISS would tell you to send the stuff down to the atmosphere so that it will get burnt down. So the next time you see a mound of dust lying over your furniture, it could well be the burnt up version of some old space equipment that some astronaut wasnt able to use anymore.
But, in 2005, a new initiative was taken. International Space Agencies decided to turn unusable space suits into satellites. Accordingly, the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station(ARISS) fabricated, tested and delivered a ham radio system to the ISS team barely three weeks after the Space Agencies agreed on that idea. Then, after a series of tests and confirmation, Expedition 12 commander Bill McArthur and flight engineer Valery Tokarev stuffed the specially designed hardware into an unusable Russian Orlan suit and hurled the suit out of the IS station in February 2006. Just like a lot of people throw the bhel puri plate out of their car window!!
The specialities of the SuitSat is that it contains what is fundamentally a transmitter and a reciever which work at FM frequencies(yes!!) of 145 MHz. Additionally, it contained a interface box for the crew aboard ISS to operate. It also contained a CD containing the voices of a number of students across the globe, to be broadcasted by SuitSat. Since this project was developed with the help of a huge number of students, a lot of students, children and common public were encouraged to tune into the frequency to listen to SuitSat. The initiative was a pretty good success with an overwhelming response from the public for the SuitSat.
The SuitSat has no fuel supply per se. It just floats around until it comes into the realm of our atmosphere when it gets burnt up.
The first version SuitSat, SuitSat1 was finally lauched in Feb 2006 and it has re entered the earth also. Efforts are on to develop hardware for SuitSat2, so that these automatons are made use of to the fullest extent possible.
Check this out: http://www.spacetoday.org/Satellites/Hamsats/Suitsat.html