Reentry Breakup Recorder


Ron Garan, ISS Expedition 28 flight engineer, prepares the Reentry Breakup Recorder (REBR) for installation in the Automated Transfer Vehicle-2 (ATV-2) in 2011.

A Reentry Breakup Recorder (REBR) is a device that is designed to be placed aboard a spacecraft to record pertinent data when the spacecraft (intentionally) breaks up as it re-enters Earth's atmosphere.

The device records data regarding the thermal, acceleration, rotational and other stresses the vehicle is subject to. In the final stages it transmits the data back to a laboratory before it is destroyed when it hits the surface.[1][2]


Two REBRs were launched in January 2011[1] on the Japanese Kounotori 2 transfer vehicle. One recorded the subsequent re-entry of that vehicle, and the other was placed aboard the Johannes Kepler ATV,[1] which reentered Earth's atmosphere on 21 June 2011.[3]

The Kounotori 2 vehicle re-entered on 30 March 2011. Its REBR successfully collected and returned its data; it survived the impact with the ocean and while floating continued to transmit. It is expected to take between 6 and 8 weeks to analyze the data.[4][needs update]

The second unit was intended to collect data during the reentry of the Johannes Kepler ATV (ATV-2); however the device failed to make contact after reentry and consequently no data was retrieved.[5]

Two other unit were used successfully for Kounotori 3 for its reentry on September 14, 2012,[6] and Edoardo Amaldi ATV (ATV-3) on October 3, 2012.[7]

Predecessor technology: image documentation of reentry and breakup

Earlier data collection from reentry and breakup was mostly visual and spectrographic. A particularly well-documented case is seen in a reentry and breakup over the South Pacific—recorded by a large team of NASA and ESA space agency personnel with extensive photographic image and video data collection, at multiple spectrographic wavelengths—occurred in September 2008, following the first mission of the ESA cargo 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.[8] 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,[9] depositing debris in the South Pacific Ocean southwest of Tahiti.[10] This was recorded with video and still photography at night by two aircraft flying over the South Pacific for purposes of data gathering.

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



  1. ^ a b c "Unique Aerospace Invention Ready For Debut". Space 29 March 2011. Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  2. ^ "Spacecraft reentry breakup recorder - Patent 6895314". Free Patents Online. 17 May 2005. Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  3. ^ European Space Agency ATV page. Retrieved June 21, 2011.
  4. ^ "Breakup Recorder Hits Ground Running". Space Ref. 30 March 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  5. ^ "Follow-up on the Reentry Breakup Recorder". ESA. 24 June 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  6. ^ John Love (September 21, 2012). "Lead Increment Scientist's Highlights For Week of Sept. 10, 2012". NASA. Retrieved September 23, 2012.
  7. ^ Feistel, Andrew S.; Weaver, Michael A.; Ailor, William H. (May 2013). "Comparison of Reentry Breakup Measurements for Three Atmospheric Reentries" (PDF). 6th IAASS Conference: Safety is Not an Option. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  8. ^ "'Jules Verne' begins final voyage". BBC. 2008-09-05. Retrieved 2008-09-06.
  9. ^ "Successful re-entry marks bright future for ATV". ESA. 2008-09-29. Retrieved 2008-09-29.
  10. ^ "Image of the Day Gallery--October 6, 2008". NASA. Retrieved 2013-05-05.

External links

  • Photo and diagram of the first REBRs, April 2011.