The "controlled destructive re-entry" of Jules Verne, the European Space Agency's first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), on September 29 was observed from the International Space Station and two specially equipped DC-8s positioned close to the craft's fiery flightpath over the South Pacific. Here are the first pictures:
Photos: European Space Agency
ESA says the ATV entered the upper atmosphere at an altitude of 120 km. and velocity of 70 m/s, and broke up at an altitude of 75 km., with the remining fragments falling into a "completely uninhabited" area of the Pacfic some 12 minutes later. The craft was carrying 2.5 tonnes of waste from the ISS. Observations from the ISS and the DC-8s will be used to determine whether the break-up matched the computer modelling.
Jules Verne was launched on March 9 and autonomously docked with the ISS, delivering 6 tonnes of fuel, water, oxygen and dry cargo including food, clothes and spares. The ATV remained docked for five months, reboosting the Station's orbit four times and performing one collision-avoidance maneuver. After undocking on September 5, the ATV spent 23 days maneuvering until it was behind and below the ISS, so that its re-entry could be observed.
ATV departs ISS. (Photo: European Space Agency)