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.