Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

Intergalactic Black Box
A data recorder recovered by NASA investigators after the disintegration of the space shuttle Columbia in February 2003 helped them reconstruct the causes of the disaster. But luck played a big part: the device had not been designed to survive breakup or impact. Now engineers at the Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, CA, are testing a device that can record factors such as temperature, acceleration, and mechanical stresses on a space vehicle as it begins to break up, then detach and carry the data safely through the plasma blaze of reentry. The recorder is about 25 centimeters across and resembles a blunt-tipped rocket cone. Its shield of insulating foam is extremely light, says William Ailor, the Aerospace engineer leading the development of the device. Once it drops into the upper atmosphere, the recorder simply falls to the earth, transmitting its data to satellites before it’s destroyed on impact. Ailor says the company has successfully dropped prototypes of the device from balloons and will have a model ready to fly on expendable rockets next year.

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Computing

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me
×

A Place of Inspiration

Understand the technologies that are changing business and driving the new global economy.

September 23-25, 2014
Register »