The spacecraft also carried three paper cranes folded by the space station's three-person crew as a symbol of hope for the victims of the massive Japanese earthquake and tsunami that struck the country on March 11. The sensor on Kounotori 2 – a small and autonomous device called the Re-entry Breakup Recorder, or REBR for short – recorded temperature, acceleration, rotational rate and other data during the spacecraft's high dive into Earth’s atmosphere.
“REBR collected data during the breakup of the Kounotori 2 vehicle and successfully 'phoned home' that data prior to final impact,” said William Ailor, Director of the Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies at The Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, Calif. “In fact, it is still transmitting while floating in the ocean.” Recovery of the device is not planned.
The REBR project was supported by the U.S. Air Force, NASA, and the Boeing Company. The first flight test of the small, autonomous device was coordinated by the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program.
A second test will be REBR’s reentry aboard the European Autonomous Transfer Vehicle 2, called Johannes Kepler, in early June. Kounotori 2, also known as HTV-2, was the second disposable H-2 Transfer Vehicle built by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to ferry tons of cargo to the International Space Station. The first HTV spacecraft, HTV-1, visited the station in 2009.
The spacecraft are about 33 feet (10 meters) long and 14 feet (4.4 m) wide. They can carry cargo inside a pressurized compartment – which astronauts can retrieve after docking – as well as haul spare station parts on an unpressurized pallet to be retrieved by a robotic arm. JAXA's HTV spacecraft are part of an international robot spaceship fleet that regularly resupplies the space station. Russia's unmanned Progress spacecraft and Europe's ATV vehicles also make supply shipments. The Kounotori 2 spacecraft launched in January and arrived at the station on Jan. 27. The next HTV spacecraft is expected to fly in January 2012. (© 2011 Space.com via FoxNews)