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[ATV reentry video (full screen)]

ATV reentry ATV reentry ATV reentry ATV reentry ATV reentry ATV reentry ATV reentry ATV reentry ATV reentry ATV reentry ATV reentry

Above: Still images from a high definition TV camera operated by Jessie Carpenter and Bill Moede of NASA Ames Research Center.

Key dates

2008 Mar 9: launch of ATV
2008 Apr 3: docking to ISS
2008 Sep 05: undocking
2008 Sep 29: re-entry

Count down clock - Watch the skies and count down with us to the new Moon of Sep 29:


Media info

Media inquiries about the reentry observing campaign should be directed at the NASA Ames Public Affairs Office: Rachel.L.Prucey [at]
+ Watch NASA TV

Inquiries about ATV should be directed at the ESA ATV Office - Public Affairs: markus.bauer [at]
+ ESA Media Kit
+ ESA ATV blog

Photo Credit for images on this site (unless otherwise given): NASA/ESA/SETI Institute

ATV reentry

Date: most likely September 29, 2008
Time of entry: night time, early morning
Duration of entry: 4 minutes

Entry speed: Vinf = 7.6 km/s
Entry mass: about 13 tonnes
Meteor brightness: At 75 km altitude, and seen from 400 km distance: Sirius brightness, with emission lines as bright as Venus; brighter at lower altitudes
Fragmentation: First breakup of solar panels, then disruption of fuel tanks, loss of docking ring, followed by overall breakup of vehicle
Peak heating: about 50 km altitude
Peak deceleration: about 40 km altitude

Visible from: South Pacific Ocean

No Moon light

Best viewing direction:
Best viewing time: Early morning Sept 29
Best direction: Approach view shows front side of each fragment over whole flight, ideal for spectroscopy and photometry. Side view shows deceleration of fragments well, and is ideal for timing of events.

Important because:
Calibrate fragmentation models for ATV. First of many future ATV re-entries.

Public interest:
Spectacular fireball, successful completion of ATV-1 "Jules Verne" mission

More information:
ATV mission website

Other reentries

+ NASA Ames: Reentry Gallery
+ Paul Maley: Shuttle reentries
+ Aerospace Corp.: upcoming reentries
+ Memorable decays

Apollo 8
The reentry of the Apollo 8 was observed by passengers onboard Pan Am flight 812, a Boeing 707 en route from Fiji to Honolulu on December 27, 1968. Pilot James Holliday spotted the re-entering spacecraft to port and warned the passengers. The Apollo 13 reentry was also observed by airline passengers. More here.

Research library

+ ESA's CARAB (pdf 930Kbyte)
+ NASA's ORSAT (website)
+ ATV info (pdf 5.7Mbyte, ESA)


+ ESA ATV website
+ ESA Space Debris Office
+ NASA Orbital Debris Program Office
+ NASA Ames Research Center
+ Stardust reentry
+ Quadrantid MAC mission
+ Aurigid MAC mission

Link to ATV-5 Reentry Observing Campaign


Jan 14, 2010 - Discovery Space has awarded an image from the ATV reentry observing campaign the third best astronomy picture of 2008!

Oct 28, 2009 - ATV Reentry Observing Campaign Workshop is a special session at the CEAS 2009 European Air and Space Conference in Manchester, UK. The meeting coordinates the post-flight analysis efforts that are underway.

March 9-12, 2009 -
ATV-1 "Jules Verne" MAC workshop, Re-Entry Emission Signatures IV, at ESA/ESTEC, Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

  • Registration - deadline March 06.
  • Presentations - deadline March 04. Please send a title and brief less than 100 word abstract of your presentation to Jason Hatton (ESA/ESTEC).
  • Agenda - will be posted shortly.
  • Directions - From Schiphol airport (AMS), take the train to Leiden (1 stop), then the bus to 'ESTEC'.

group photo

ATV MAC team at Papeete airport just after completing a successful observing campaign. [ Group photo 1: P. Jenniskens] [ Photo 2: E. James]

SPOSH image of ATV

Early detection of the ATV reentry with SPOSH. Photo: Detlef Koschny.

November 05 - The raw data have been gathered now into an archive and an initial report identifying the key phenomena during entry was submitted to ESA. Initial results were presented at the Third IAASS conference in Rome (Oct. 21-23) and the 2nd Intrnational Atmospheric Reentry Association Days in Arcachon, France (Oct. 21-23). Our next step will be to form research teams that can address specific aspects of the reentry process, in preparation of a workshop in February.

ATV reentry visible spectroscopy

Ron Dantowitz and Marek Kozubal obtained these blue and green spectra of ATV. Results are compared to those of two other instruments.

October 15 - Spectroscopic data identified the origin of different colors for different parts of the fragmenting ATV. The image above shows a compilation of data from a small region in the blue and green part of the spectrum from three instruments: a cooled CCD camera (Ron Dantowitz and Marek Kozubal of Dexter and Southfield Schools), a miniature Echelle spectrograph (Peter Jenniskens and David Holman of the SETI Institute), and a cooled CCD camera (Claire Webb and Mike Borden, students of the SETI REU and NASA Ames Exploration Academy programs).

October 07 - Additional images from the ATV reentry as observed from the DC8 aircraft are shown below. Click on each image to obtain a higher resolution version of the picture. All images are courtesy ESA/NASA.

ATV reentry composite by Antoine Bavandi

Antoine Bavandi, ESA/ESTEC, obtained these still frames with a Sony 3CCD camcorder, owned by Mike Taylor of Utah State University. Composite: Peter Jenniskens.

ATV reentry composite by David Sliski

David Sliski of Dexter and Southfield Schools captured the ATV reentry in this digitial still image from the DC8 aircraft.

ATV reentry by Julian Nott

Julian Nott disected the light emitted by ATV and its fragments during entry into its many colors, in a process called spectroscopy. Emission lines and bands identify some of the components of the fragments.

October 06 - A small 2-m size asteroid has been discovered that is on a collision course with Earth. The asteroid was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey at Mnt Lemon, Az. Called 2008 TC3, it is calculated to hit the north of Sudan at 02h 46m UT (+/- 5 minutes, 3 sigma) on October 7, 2008, just hours from now just before dawn. The impact location is longitude = 31.697E, latitude = +20.855N (+/- 140 km, 3 sigma). The meteor will radiate from the head of Pisces, just under the square of Pegasus, coincidentally from almost the same direction as ATV was approaching us last week! The impact speed will be considerably higher at 12.82 km/s. This is the very first time that an asteroid was observed in space before it hit the Earth. The entry will be fairly shallow, at an entry angle of 19 degrees from the horizon, and slow enough to drop meteorites in the general area. Source: Andrea Milani (University of Pisa, Italy), and Donald Yeomans (JPL, USA).

Update Oct 07: It is reported that this fireball was detected by an infrasound station in Kenya and observed by a pilot onboard a KLM flight. Keep tuned.

October 06 - The ATV reentry, in a still image from video by Jesse Carpenter and Bill Moede of NASA Ames, was NASA's Picture of the Day today: The video itself (courtesy of ESA/NASA) is shown in low resolution at the ESA ATV blog website:
[The ATV reentry video (full screen)]

October 01 - ISS observations of the ATV reentry were successful too. It is reported that: "the FE-1 set up the Fialka-MV-KOSMOS hardware of the GFI-1 RELAXATION experiment hardware at SM window #9 and used its UV (ultraviolet) camera and spectrometer, controlled from Laptop 3, to record relaxation process imagery & plasma spectra of the ATV's fiery entry in the Earth's atmosphere at 9:31am EDT. Afterwards, Oleg tore down and stowed the hardware. [The return of ESA's first logistics vehicle began with a deorbit burn of 70 m/s delta-V at 8:58am. ATV1 breakup started at an altitude of about 75 km, with the remaining fragments splashing into the Pacific Ocean some 12 min later.]".

October 01 - ESA posts ATV re-entry video, obtained by Jesse Carpenter and Bill Moede of NASA Ames onboard the DC8 airborne laboratory. Re-entry video

Click on each photo to view a larger image.

Still images from a high definition TV camera operated by Jessie Carpenter and Bill Moede of NASA Ames Research Center. The images were prepared by Eric James of the same group.

September 29 - The final minutes of ATV were more glorious than we had expected. A big piece continued until deep in the atmosphere and created a bright green fireball with a wake of hundreds of orange fragments. Both aircraft were directed to give us a prime view of the event. The re-entry appeared to be nominal, with the main break-up event close to the predicted time, kudos to ATV control center! The videos are spectacular, kudos to Ed Schilling, Eric James, Jesse Carpenter, and Bill Moede of NASA Ames, who provided the still images attached (extracted from the video). The data are impressive. My own Echelle spectrograph shows a wealth of emission lines. The main break-up event caused a bright flare with a puff of matter left behind. When ATV finally passed the DC8 aircraft, the fragment train was impressive. While operating the computer of my instrument, I glanced up through a window that perfectly framed the approaching meteor. This one is for eternity. A great homage to Jules Verne. - Peter Jenniskens

- with thanks to Barbara Vance of the SETI Institute, who provided the live updates at this site in the past week.

The light from one of many fragments of ATV is dissected into its colors, showing the dominant turquoise light from Aluminum Oxide bands, in this image by Chris Kitting, California State University East Bay

Still image of ATV when it passed by the DC8 aircraft, by Jeremie Vaubaillon, Caltech/Observatoire de Paris

September 29 - ESA posts first images from ATV reentry, transmitted shortly after the observation from the DC8 aircraft to ATV control center. First images

[Older news: mission preparations]


ATV-1 "Jules Verne" MAC mission logo: ATV rising above the horizon and breaking, observed from two aircraft doing spectroscopy to determine fragment nature, triangulation for measuring altitude, ISS watching entry from above.

Campaign News

+September 29 - Mission success!
+ September 25 - Peter Jenniskens and Jason Hatton article at
+ September 24 - NASA issues press release about the mission
+ September 14 - Official kick-off of the ATV-1 "Jules Verne" MAC mission during the Team SETI (celebrating 10 years) icecream social.
+ September 08 - DC8 upload has started at NASA Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility
+ September 04 - ESA-NASA agreement signed.
+ August 18 - The mission will be executed by a Gulfstream V, operated by H211 LLC from NASA Ames Research Center, and NASA's DC8 Airborne Laboratory, operated by NASA Dryden Flight Research Center and UND/NSERC.
+ August 6 - Capable NASA DC8 Airborne Laboratory likely to replace B757 in ATV MAC mission.
+ July 25 - ESA decides on night-time reentry to facilitate a close study of the reentry.
+ June 27 - ESA and CNES have studied the conditions needed for a night time reentry of ATV-1.
+ May 15 - Workshop at NASA Ames to discuss how best to observe the ATV reentry.
+ April 25 - Mission patch embroidery approved.
+ February 13 - We received authorization for use of a Boeing 757 and a Gulfstream V aircraft, both operated from NASA Ames Research Center by H211 LLC.
+ January 4 - Mission brief with NASA DC8 Airborne Laboratory managers: due to scheduling conflict, DC8 aircraft no longer available in August. Search for alternative commences.
+ January 3 - Quadrantid MAC mission deploys Gulfstream V aircraft to be used in ATV reentry observing campaign.
+ November 27 - ESA Directorate gives green light for proposed ATV reentry observing campaign

+ Reentry campaign images from previous Stardust mission (involving NASA DC8 Airborne Laboratory)
+ Gulfstream V campaign images from previous Quadrantid meteor shower mission

researchers at work

organization schedule (weekly updated)

participants and layout of instruments (weekly updated)


Dr. Jason Hatton, ESA/ESTEC
Email: jason.hatton [at]
+ ATV reentry observing campaign mission manager
+ Overall coordination for ESA

Dave E. Jordan, NASA Ames Research Center
Email: Dave.E.Jordan [at]
+ ATV campaign project manager
+ Overall coordination for NASA

Science team:
Dr. Peter Jenniskens, SETI Institute
Email: pjenniskens [at]
+ Principal Investigator, mission scientist
+ Coordination Instrument P.I. team travel, instrument setup, data aquisition, and data reduction

SETI Institute logo Curator: Peter Jenniskens
Responsible NASA Official: Dave Jordan
Responsible ESA Official: Jason Hatton

Last update: Feb 14, 2009

Hosted by: The SETI Institute
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