If, late this month, you should happen to hear news reports of a man plunging toward Earth engulfed in flame, be assured that thousands of amateur-radio enthusiasts across the world are monitoring the situation closely. The “man” is actually SuitSat, a project conceived by the group Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) to get schoolchildren excited about space.
Astronauts on board the ISS will soon be disposing of surplus Russian Ormal space suits by releasing them into space. ARISS secured permission to send a handheld Kenwood transmitter to the space station on a Russian Progress supply rocket in late August. The space station crew will place the transmitter inside the first suit to be launched. Running on internal battery power, the transmitter will last three to four weeks, sending out messages from each of the countries participating in the project. According to Robin Haighton of ARISS, these messages will alternate with a voice recording on the same frequency. The recording will keep radio operators informed of SuitSat’s status by reporting on the conditions outside the suit as it gets hotter. The group is also sending up a CD filled with kids’ artwork from around the world. But the art will end, like everything else in SuitSat, when the satellite disintegrates on reentry into Earth’s atmosphere after a few weeks in orbit.