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Black box for spacecraft tested

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
El Segundo, Calif. (UPI) Mar 31, 2011
The first black box flight recorder designed to endure a re-entry from space survived a fiery return from low Earth orbit, its manufacturer said.

Dubbed a re-entry breakup recorder, the heatproof device transmitted key data about its condition via satellite as it descended toward the Pacific Ocean between Chile and New Zealand Wednesday, reported.

The recorder, built by The Aerospace Corporation of El Segundo, Calif., had been inside the re-entering HTV2 unmanned Japanese Space Agency cargo spacecraft, which left the International Space Station last week and was jettisoned as the HTV2 disintegrated.

The 2.2-pound, 12-inch diameter recorder is designed to be placed somewhere in a spacecraft where it will easily break away in the heat and turbulence of re-entry.

It is not designed to be recovered, its designers say, but rather stabilizes itself in the atmosphere and beams sensor data to a communications satellite network, which can relay the information to mission controllers.

Even though it's not meant to be recovered, the recorder tested this week managed to survive impact with the ocean surface and continued to transmit data for several hours, Bill Ailor of The Aerospace Corporation said. The data will be analyzed during the next six to eight weeks, he says.

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