Japanese, Russian Rockets Prepare to Launch Cargo and Crew This Week

The gantry arms close around the Soyuz MS-15 rocket
The gantry arms close around the Soyuz MS-15 rocket after it was raised into vertical position on the launch pad on Monday. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Japan is getting ready to launch its H-II Transport Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) cargo craft on Tuesday at 12:05 p.m. EDT to replenish the International Space Station crew. Russia has already rolled out its Soyuz MS-15 crew ship to its launch pad for a liftoff on Wednesday at 9:57 a.m. with three new crewmates. NASA TV will broadcast all mission activities live.

The HTV-8 space freighter from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) is packed with over four tons of crew supplies, station hardware and new science experiments. The spacecraft, named Kounotori, will blast off on Tuesday from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan and arrive at the station Saturday. NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan will capture Kounotori with the Canadarm2 robotic arm around 7:15 a.m. Ground controllers will then take over and remotely install the Japanese resupply ship to the Harmony module about three hours later.

Russia’s Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft rolled out early Monday from its processing facility in Kazakhstan and is now standing vertical at the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Two Expedition 61 crewmates, Jessica Meir of NASA and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos, will lift off aboard the Soyuz with spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori from the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday. The trio will reach the orbiting lab less than six hours later and dock to the Zvezda service module at 3:45 p.m.

Meanwhile back in space, the six station residents started the workweek with ongoing microgravity research benefitting both Earth and space inhabitants. Two Expedition 60 crewmates are also preparing to depart the station next week after 203 days in space.

Koch was observing tiny free-flying satellites programmed with algorithms to maneuver in formation inside the Kibo laboratory module. Morgan was cleaning up after last week’s rodent research then joined NASA Flight Engineer Nick Hague for eye exams to understand the effects of eye pressure caused by headward fluid shifts in microgravity. Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) replaced fuel bottles in the Combustion Integrated Rack before processing samples for a study seeking insights into Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally, Hague and station Commander Alexey Ovchinin are preparing to wrap up their mission that began in March. The two crewmates are packing crew provisions and checking their Sokol launch and entry suits ahead of their Oct. 3 return to Earth inside the Soyuz MS-12 crew ship. The duo will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan with Almansoori aboard, who will be completing his eight-day mission aboard the station.

2 thoughts on “Japanese, Russian Rockets Prepare to Launch Cargo and Crew This Week”

  1. Great work by all to and from the international space station.Now that Australia has joined forces with NASA on the “moon to mars” adventure we Aussies also look forward to joining you all soon at the International Space Station to say “Good day mates” and continue the adventure together, cheers ,Ken and Judy O’Neill .

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