Japanese Space Freighter Blasts Off To Resupply Station Crew

Japan's HTV-8 cargo craft launches on time
Japan’s HTV-8 cargo craft launches on time from the Tanegashima Space Center atop the H-IIB rocket.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) H-IIB rocket launched at 12:05 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Sept. 24 (1:05 a.m. Sept. 25 in Japan) from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. At the time of launch, the space station was flying 258 statute miles over Mali in southwest Africa.

A little more than 15 minutes after launch, the unpiloted H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) cargo spacecraft successfully separated from the rocket and began its four-day rendezvous with the International Space Station.

 The spacecraft will arrive at the station Saturday, Sept. 28. Live coverage of the spacecraft rendezvous and capture will begin at 5:45 a.m. Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA, backed up by her NASA crewmate Andrew Morgan, will operate the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm from the station’s cupola to capture the 12-ton spacecraft as it approaches from below. Robotics flight controllers will then take over the operation of the arm to install HTV-8 to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module where it will spend a month attached to the orbiting laboratory. Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will monitor HTV-8 systems during its approach to the station.

Capture of the HTV-8 is scheduled around 7:15 a.m. Coverage will resume at 9:30 a.m. for the final installation of the resupply craft to Harmony by robotic ground controllers. If the installation operations are running ahead of schedule, coverage would begin earlier.

Named Kounotori, meaning white stork in Japanese, the craft will deliver six new lithium-ion batteries and corresponding adapter plates that will replace aging nickel-hydrogen batteries for two power channels on the station’s far port truss segment. The batteries will be installed through a series of robotics and spacewalks by the station’s crew members later this year.

Additional experiments on board HTV-8 include an upgrade to the Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF-L), a small-sized satellite optical communication system (SOLISS), and a payload for testing the effects of gravity on powder and granular material (Hourglass).

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