Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) reentry as seen from the International Space Station. Credit: ESA/NASA

Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) reentry as seen from the International Space Station.
Credit: ESA/NASA

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle — Georges Lemaître — was purposely dumped over the South Pacific on February 15.

The large cargo ferry craft was outfitted with an internal camera in the hopes of imaging from inside the reentry process.

While the ATV-mounted Break-Up Camera did produce images (nearly 6,000), those were lost in radio relay from an ATV-carried SatCom heatshield-protected sphere to Iridium telecom satellites as the hardware plummeted back to Earth.

ESA’s Break-Up Camera and data-storing SatCom – the white sphere – is seen installed aboard ATV-5 before Europe's space truck left the International Space Station. The ATV burnt up on reentry. The SatCom survived the ATV break-up to return data to Earth that shows pictures were taken, but none made it back to ground.  Credit: ESA/NASA

ESA’s Break-Up Camera and data-storing SatCom – the white sphere – is seen installed aboard ATV-5 before Europe’s space truck left the International Space Station. The ATV burnt up on reentry. The SatCom survived the ATV break-up to return data to Earth that shows pictures were taken, but none made it back to ground.
Credit: ESA/NASA

Pictures were taken, but sadly none made it back to ground, according to an ESA statement. A team of researchers is investigating why further data packets didn’t make it through.

ATV’s death throes were recorded by other instruments, data that was returned successfully to the ground.

This “blackbox” system is part of ESA’s continuing research into reentry dynamics – information that is to help understand the projected outcome from reentering the multi-module International Space Station.

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