June 20, 2011

ESA’s Johannes Kepler ATV Undocked From ISS

The European Space Agency (ESA) said Monday that its Johannes Kepler ATV cargo spacecraft has undocked from the International Space Station.

ESA said the craft is leaving the orbital outpost and will head back to burn up in the Earth's atmosphere on Tuesday over the Pacific Ocean.

The Johannes Kepler spent four months attached to the ISS, delivering over seven tons of dry cargo, propellants and air in February.

The ATV's last major job was to boost the complex to a higher orbit.

The craft will fire its engines twice to descend from orbit tomorrow.

ESA said the freighter will hit the outer layers of the atmosphere at an altitude of 62 miles and will disintegrate before hitting the ocean.

"Hitting the upper atmosphere, (the) ATV will tumble, disintegrate and burn, and any remains will strike the ocean at around 2050 GMT," ESA said in a press release.

ESA said the fiery end of the Johannes Kepler will include a "last phone call home."
The agency wants to fine-tune its knowledge about how the cylindrical craft behaves in a controlled destruction.

A prototype "black box" called the re-entry break-up recorder will gather data on the ferry's location, temperature, pressure and altitude as it disintegrates.

The gadget will then eject from the dying spacecraft and transmit the information through the Iridium satphone system once it reaches an altitude of 11 miles.


Image Caption: ATV Johannes Kepler drifting away from the ISS. Undocking took place at 14:46:30 GMT (16:46:30 CEST). Credits: NASA


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