Ham radio and space nerds tune in to NASA SuitSat on Saturday

SuitSat will be released into space today, about 3 hours from the time-stamp on this blog post! The SuitSat broadcast takes place soon after that (here in Los Angeles, tomorrow, Saturday Feb. 4th at 10:25 a.m. PST). Space buffs and ham radio enthusiasts around the world are preparing to tune in. Boing Boing pal Michael Perry plans to gather friends on Mount Hollywood (near the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign) at that time, and says:

The odds that we actually hear it depend on many factors most of which are out of our control but we're going to give it a go nonetheless and the worst that could happen is that we'll have had a nice walk. Assuming SuitSat closely approximates the orbit of the ISS, it's going to get up to 69 degrees in our smoggy sky that morning, and be in signal range for just under 10 minutes.

The math: You can calculate ISS orbits here, SuitSat stuff is here, More suitsat stuff here. And finally, how to listen to satellites with a walkie talkie is here.

Also, Mike Outmesguine says, "It should be noted that any sky will do. Mountain peaks not needed."

Nell Boyce filed a really cool story for NPR News about SuitSat earlier this week, with a sneak preview of what you'll hear if you tune in. Snip:

[Frank Bauer, an engineer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland] says [SuitSat] won't be floppy because the astronauts have worked hard to make sure that it looks like a human: "They've put a lot of stuff inside it, like trash … because they want to get rid of that, too." Even with all that stuffing, SuitSat won't look exactly like a lost astronaut. "People are thinking of the arms flailing around and everything. Well, they're tied, so they're right in front of the suit," says Bauer. "Sort of like you tie a turkey at Thanksgiving, to hold the stuffing in."

Still, the sight of the suit floating away is going to be an arresting image, one that's eerily reminiscent of all those classic scenes from science fiction movies where the astronaut goes hurtling into the black, endless abyss. And it will happen just days after the anniversaries of two shuttle disasters.

Bauer says that he and his colleagues talked about whether the sight was going to be too disturbing for the public. They decided it was worth it: "Isn't it kind of cool to allow us, in a very benign way, to let people see science fiction become science fact?"

Link to archived radio segment (with audio). Image: Cosmonaut and engineer Valery I. Tokarev makes adjustments on SuitSat.

Previously on Boing Boing:
Old space-suit recycled as experimental satellite

Update, 3:22PM PT: Michael Perry says,

They just released it; Mission Control chatter is all in Russian, translated
(mostly) by an American woman in voice-over; however, the cosmonauts switched to English right before they launched the empty space suit saying, "Goodbye, Mr.
Smith," with a thick Russian accent. Cosmonaut humor!