Backdropped by the blackness of space and Earth’s horizon, a spacesuit-turned-satellite called SuitSat began its orbit around the Earth after it was released by the Expedition 12 crewmembers during a session of extravehicular activity (EVA) on Feb. 3, 2006. SuitSat, an unneeded Russian Orlan spacesuit, was outfitted by the crew with three batteries, internal sensors and a radio transmitter, which faintly transmitted recorded voices of school children to amateur radio operators worldwide.

Credit: NASA

SuitSat-1: A spacesuit floats free

A spacesuit floated away from the International Space Station eight years ago, but no investigation was conducted. Everyone knew that it was pushed by the space station crew. Dubbed Suitsat-1, the unneeded Russian Orlan spacesuit filled mostly with old clothes was fitted with a faint radio transmitter and released to orbit the Earth. The suit circled the Earth twice before its radio signal became unexpectedly weak.Suitsat-1 continued to orbit every 90 minutes until it burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere after a few weeks. Pictured above, the lifeless spacesuit was photographed in 2006 just as it drifted away from space station.

Image credit: ISS Expedition 12 Crew, NASA

Anybody out there?

This is a real picture of a Russian Orlan spacesuit – stuffed with old clothes and set free to orbit Earth. Why exactly the Russians decided to toss the suit – also known as SuitSat 1 – into space is rather mystifying, but this Wikipedia article suggests it was a commemorative gesture for the 175th anniversary of Moscow State Technical University, and this Science@NASA piece from 2006 hints it was an engineering test of some sort. (via Earth Matters : Blogs)

The concept behind SuitSat-1 is quite simple, put some simple electronics; radio communications system, and telemetry into an older Russian Orlan spacesuit, then toss it out of the airlock.

Frank Bauer of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centers said,

 ”SuitSat is a Russian brainstorm, some of our Russian partners in the ISS program … had an idea: Maybe we can turn old spacesuits into useful satellites.” Aside from broadcasting voice messages from students around the world, and some telemetry data, SuitSat-1 also looks reminiscent of the recent movie Gravity.

Watching this gives me the chills. A cosmonaut floats away from the International space station, spinning out of control as the camera follows it, going around planet Earth for just one orbit before plunging into the atmosphere, burning and disintegrating. A terrifying scene that looks like the movie Gravity, but the video above is real—except no human was inside that suit.