Japanese cargo ship will blast to the ISS on 10th anniversary of first HTV launch


The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is sending an H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS) on Sept. 10. The craft will launch from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center on the 10th anniversary of its first HTV mission.

The rocket is scheduled to liftoff at 5:33 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Sept. 10, which is 6:33 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 11 in Japan. If all goes as planned, the HTV will arrive at the ISS on Sept. 14.

NASA will air live coverage of the ship’s launch and capture on NASA TV and the agency’s website.

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ISS Capture

At 5:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, Sept. 14, NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan will begin capture procedures from aboard the ISS. With backup support from Morgan, Flight Engineer Koch will use the Canadarm2 from the station’s cupola observation module to grab the incoming ship during its approach.

Once the crew secures the craft, robotics flight controllers will control the arm to install the HTV-8 to the station’s Earth-facing port on the Harmony module. Meanwhile, Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency (ESA) will monitor the rocket’s systems as it approaches the ISS.

Battery Upgrade

The Asian spaceship is named “Kounotori” (which means “white stork” in Japanese). It can carry over 12,000 pounds of equipment, supplies, and science experiments to the orbiting lab. In the impending load, six lithium-ion batteries and their adapter plates are part of the cargo.

According to NASA, the new batteries will replace older nickel-hydrogen versions for two power channels on the space hub’s far port truss section. The equipment will be installed via several robotics procedures and ISS spacewalks later this year.

New Scientific Studies

Beyond equipment, the spacecraft will deliver an array of new scientific experiments to the station, including an Hourglass study. The investigation explores “the relationship between gravity and the behavior of granular materials such as regolith that covers the surface of planets and planetary-like bodies.”

In the effort, researchers will discover how the materials behave in space. Ultimately, they hope to apply their findings in designing spacecraft that will land on the surfaces of the moon, Mars, and other celestial bodies in future missions.

Furthermore, the Demonstration of Small Optical Communication System (SOLISS) study tests new technology for future broadband data connection in space. The SOLISS optical system currently sits on an exterior platform on the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) at the ISS. As such, it continually exposes numerous experiments to space.

With this technology, large amounts of data can transmit from the space station. It also satellites in Geostationary Orbit (GEO) to send data to ground stations.

Finally, crew members will test the flammability of different materials in microgravity in the FLARE study. The team will monitor results as several types of solid fuels burn under different conditions inside of a flow tunnel. Overall, the study aims to predict flammability in microgravity to improve fire safety aboard spacecraft on future space missions.

The JAXA spacecraft will arrive at its interstellar destination on Sept. 14, just under a year since the Expedition 56 crew received the HTV-7 at the ISS.