DIY Satellite At The Top Of My Christmas Wish List
Want. I can't really be elegant about how cool or desirable this is. I just took one look, and covetousness took over. Want. I have a feeling that this will top the Christmas lists of more than a few of you, dear readers. I just have to ask that you follow my convoluted logic for a minute...
I threw out a pair of 17 year old sneakers today. Leaky, cracked, worn - they were barely performing sneaker-type duties. I wasn't hanging onto them out of sentimentality - in fact I never really liked them (they were a sort of "gift" from a demented stranger on the street), yet I kept them around way beyond their "end-of-life". Which of course got me thinking about space suits.
Stay with me now... If I was so reluctant to throw out regular earth-bound sneakers, how could anyone ever get rid of a worn out (and very expensive) space suit? One of those suits is like a mini spaceship, so you can't keep it in action as it approaches its end-of-life. So where do they end up?
I learned that that they don't all simply end up in museums. Clever people in a Russian amateur radio group thought that a retired cosmonaut suit could be a cheap and temporary transmitter satellite, offering a signal that could be picked up on inexpensive HAM radios. Just for fun. Brilliant fun.
A little transmitter (with a PIC controller running the show!) was fitted into the space suit that among other things played a looping "secret message" in several languages intended for school children worldwide to tune in and decode. SUITSAT-1 (also nicknamed Ivan Ivanovich) was launched from the International Space Station in February of 2006. It was expected to transmit for about three days, though its signal could be heard for about two weeks before the suit plunged into the earths' atmosphere seven months later.
So it sounds to me like all you need to make your own satellite is an old space suit, some clever electronics, and a way to bum a ride on a space shuttle. Can we pass the hat and start up a collection to get our own Retro Thing radio satellite? What a terrific use for an end-of-life space suit. That's way more useful than me trying to use my old shoes as an orbiting transmitter.
I hope that all of you pirate radio guys out there are taking notes...
Learn more from the guys who built the transmitter (with video!)