Spacecraft Cemetery - Reentry Documentation

Reentry Documentation

A particularly well-documented reentry and breakup over the South Pacific was recorded by a large team of NASA and ESA space agency personnel in September 2008, following the first mission of the ESA unmanned resupply spacecraft—the Automated Transfer Vehicle Jules Verne—to the International Space Station (ISS) in March 2008.

On 5 September 2008, Jules Verne undocked from the ISS and maneuvered to an orbital position 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) below the ISS. It remained in that orbit until the night of 29 September. At 10:00:27 UTC, Jules Verne started its first de-orbit burn of 6 minutes, followed by a second burn of 15 minutes at 12:58:18 UTC. At 13:31 GMT, Jules Verne re-entered the atmosphere at an altitude of 120 kilometres (75 mi), and then completed its destructive re-entry as planned over the following 12 minutes, depositing debris in the South Pacific Ocean southwest of Tahiti. This was recorded with video and still photography at night by two aircraft flying over the South Pacific for purposes of data gathering, with reentry and breakup telemetry data from the craft provided by a Reentry Breakup Recorder and collected by remote communication receivers.

The NASA documentary of the project is in the gallery, below.

  • Jules Verne re-enters the Earth's atmosphere southwest of Tahiti.

  • Behind the scenes of the ATV re-entry observation team. NASA, 2008

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