Feeds

Euro space truck consigned to flaming death

Johannes Kepler burns up over Pacific

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

The European Space Agency yesterday sent its space truck Johannes Kepler to a fiery death over the South Pacific in a perfectly-executed "destructive re-entry" at the end of the spacecraft's four-month mission to the International Space Station.

ESA's second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-2) plunged into Earth's atmosphere after two thruster burns designed to bring any remaining debris down in an uninhabited stretch of ocean. ESA explains: "Just before hitting the atmosphere, Johannes Kepler was commanded to begin tumbling to ensure it would disintegrate and burn up safely."

Artist's impression of the Johannes Kepler burning up in the atmosphere. Pic: ESA/D. Ducros

As predicted, a few pieces did survive the intense heat to hit the water at around 21:00 GMT last night. The substantial Russian docking adaptor and main engines came down in an area roughly 6000km west of Chile.

As well as 1,200kg of ISS waste and redundant hardware, the Johannes Kepler was carrying a prototype "black box" which recorded the spacecraft's last moments, grabbing data on "acceleration, roll, pitch and yaw rates, temperatures and GPS coordinates". Once free of the disintegrating ATV, it continued a solo descent, protected by its own heatshield, before making a last call to send the data via the Iridium satphone system.

ESA hopes this info "will help to predict what happens to space hardware as it re-enters and comes apart under aerodynamic heating and loads".

The Johannes Kepler docked with the ISS. Pic: NASA

The 20-tonne Johannes Kepler blasted off from Kourou spaceport in French Guiana on 17 February, carrying 4,534kg of propellant for ISS reboost and attitude control, 1,600kg of dry cargo, 850kg of propellant for the Zvezda module and 100kg of oxygen.

Alberto Novelli, head of ESA’s ATV Mission Operations, said of the successful mission: "We broke many records with ATV-2. Not only was this the heaviest payload ever launched by ESA and the Ariane 5 rocket, but the ATV’s engines also achieved the biggest boost for human spaceflight since the Apollo missions to the Moon: we raised the Space Station's orbit by more than 40 kilometres."

Nico Dettmann, head of the ATV Programme, chipped in with: "ATV has shown again its capabilities in servicing the Station and we are looking forward to the next, Edoardo Amaldi, which will be shipped to Kourou in August for launch in early 2012." ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.