Gamma ray bursts (GRBs) are the most energetic eruptions known in the Universe. Instruments such as Compton-GRO/BATSE and the GRB monitor on BeppoSAX have detected more than 2700 GRBs and, although observational confirmation is still required, it is now generally accepted that many of these bursts are associated with the collapse of rapidly spinning massive stars to form black holes. Consequently, since first generation stars are expected to be very massive, GRBs are likely to have occurred in significant numbers at early epochs. X-red is a space mission concept designed to detect these extremely high redshifted GRBs, in order to probe the nature of the first generation of stars and hence the time of reionisation of the early Universe. We demonstrate that the gamma and x-ray luminosities of typical GRBs render them detectable up to extremely high redshifts (z ~ 10to30), but that current missions such as HETES and SWIFT operate outside the observational range for detection of high redshift GRB afterglows. Therefore, to redress this, we present a complete mission design from teh science case to the mission architecture and payload, the latter comprising three instruments, namely wide field x-ray cameras to detect high redshift gamma-rays, an x-ray focussing telescope to determine accurate coordinates and extract spectra, and an infrared spectrograph to observe the high redshift optical afterglow. The mission is expected to detect and identify for the first time GRBs with z > 10, thereby providing constraints on properties of the first generation of stars and the history of the early Universe.