Japan’s Ship Nears Departure Before October Cargo, Crew Missions

The SpaceX Crew Dragon and the Japan's HTV-9 resupply ship figure prominently in this photograph taken during the July 1 spacewalk.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon and the Japan’s HTV-9 resupply ship figure prominently in this photograph taken during the July 1 spacewalk.

Canada’s versatile robotic arm, the 57.7-foot-long Canadarm2, is in place and ready to grapple and release Japan’s resupply ship from the International Space Station next week. The Expedition 63 crew is continuing to pack the cargo craft while training for its robotic release.

Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA will command the Canadarm2 to release the H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) on Tuesday at 1:35 p.m. EDT. Roscosmos cosmonaut and Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner will support Cassidy at the robotics workstation in the station’s “window to the world,” the cupola.

Both crewmates will be practicing the robotic maneuvers on a computer Friday and Monday to prepare for the HTV-9’s release. Cassidy finalized packing the HTV-9 with discarded gear and will close the hatch to the Japanese resupply ship on Monday. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of the release activities on Tuesday at 1:15 p.m.

Space traffic will pick up again in October with a U.S. cargo ship slated to arrive and a crew exchange planned at the orbiting lab. Northrop Grumman is targeting early October for the rendezvous and robotic capture of its Cygnus cargo craft at the station.

On Oct. 14, three Expedition 64 crew members will launch aboard the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship toward the orbital lab. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov will take a six-hour ride that day and dock to the Rassvet module beginning a six-month station mission.

One week later, Cassidy will end his mission along with Expedition 63 crewmates Vagner and Russian Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin. The trio will undock from the Poisk module in the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship on Oct. 21 and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan ending a 195-day research mission aboard the station.