Page last updated at 11:30 GMT, Monday, 6 February 2006

Spacesuit radio 'alive' in orbit

The SuitSat, an old Russian spacesuit with a radio transmitter sent into orbit

An old spacesuit stuffed with a radio transmitter and old clothes is still emitting a weak signal as it orbits the globe, amateur radio enthusiasts say.

Nasa had reported that the "SuitSat" device had ceased working within hours of its release from the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday.

But a US amateur radio spokesman said weak signals had been picked up. "Death reports were premature," he said.

The suit is meant to transmit messages in six languages to amateur radio fans.

The makeshift satellite was tossed from the ISS by crew members Bill McArthur and Valery Tokarev as they began a six-hour spacewalk.

Made from a decommissioned Russian spacesuit, the SuitSat contains a radio, transmitter and sensors to monitor temperature and battery power, with old clothes packed in to hold the equipment in place.

'Cold but alive'

The idea was for radio operators to be able to pick up recorded messages for several days before the device re-entered the atmosphere and burned up. Images and lessons were also to be sent for schoolchildren.

Reports from Nasa on Friday suggested the device had stopped working before the ISS crew had even completed their spacewalk.

However, members of the Connecticut-based American Radio Relay League (ARRL) report picking up a feeble signal on the 145.99MHz frequency in the days since.

Spokesman Allen Pitts said the signals were "weak, cold and really hard to copy, but alive".

The group says the evidence points to a problem with the antenna fixed to the spacesuit's helmet or the wires linking the electronics.

ARRL has appealed to amateur radio operators around the world to gather extra information by listening out for the signal and passing on their results.

The spacesuit was nicknamed "Ivan Ivanovich", after a lifelike Russian mannequin sent on a test flight shortly before Yuri Gagarin's groundbreaking mission in 1961.

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