A prototype ‘blackbox for spacecraft’ running inside ESA’s cargo ferry as it burned up in the atmosphere managed to return data to the ground but, sadly, the images it took were lost in transit.
ESA’s fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle broke up as planned over an uninhabited region of the South Pacific at about 18:04 GMT on Sunday 15 February, having separated from the International Space Station the day before.
Aboard it was the Break-Up Camera, designed to record ATV’s death throes in the infrared and transfer the results to the SatCom heatshield-protected sphere.
Surviving the break-up, SatCom then broadcasts its stored data to Iridium telecom satellites as it plummets back to Earth.
ATV-5 reentry seen from Space Station
How did it turn out in practice? The good news is that the team did indeed receive a message from the SatCom on Sunday evening at 18:08 GMT, four minutes after ATV broke up.