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Japan sends Kounotori 2 spacecraft on suicide mission to study re-entry process

Christopher Trout, @Mr_Trout
March 29, 2011
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An unmanned cargo ship built by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is set to go up in flames tomorrow in the name of interplanetary research. Along with a load of space station junk, the Kounotori 2 spacecraft is packing something akin to a black box, also known as a Re-entry Breakup Recorder (REBR), that will collect and transmit data about the ship's final moments. The space station's crew will activate the REBR before Kounotori 2 begins its final assignment. As soon as it starts showing signs of re-entry, the sensor will begin to collect data including temperature, acceleration, and rotation rate, and will then break away from the craft for a final free fall to Earth, at which point the REBR will dump its findings. Scientist hope the device will help answer questions about exactly what happens when things fall apart during re-entry. If all goes according to plan, the REBR will plunk down in the ocean sometime later, but its host will never be seen again... farewell, Kounotori 2.

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