Friday, August 9, 2013

Japanese Cargo Ship HTV-4 Docks to ISS

Japan's HTV-4, Konoutori-4 cargo ship has successfully berthed to the International Space Station.

Chris Cassidy and Karen Nyberg smile
for the camera in the Cupola
as HTV-4 floats below the ISS.
credit: NASA
The Japanese HTV-4 (Nicknamed Konoutori-4), loaded with 3.6 tonnes of cargo and supplies for the astronauts aboard the orbiting complex, launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan on August 3rd. For the past five and a half days, the vehicle has been performing a series of orbital maneuvers and burns in preparation for today's berthing to the Earth-facing port of the station's Harmony Node, which occurred at 3:38 p.m. UTC, while the International Space Station was flying high above the Southern Pacific Ocean.

HTV-4 entered its Approach Initiation phase shortly after 8 a.m. UTC, as the cargo ship edged its way closer to the International Space Station, travelling at a speed of 1 inch/second.

Konoutori-4 was then ordered to hold at a distance of 10m below the station, as both the HTV-4 and ISS were placed in free-drift- with all thrusters turned off. HTV-4 was then flawlessly grappled and captured by the the Space Station's robotic arm Canadarm2, which was controlled by NASA Astronaut and Expedition 36 Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg. Nyberg was assisted by her fellow flight engineers; NASA Astronaut Chris Cassidy, and ESA Astronaut Luca Parmitano. Capture was confirmed at 11:26 a.m. UTC, while the ISS flew 260 miles over the southern coast of South Africa.
HTV-4 docked to the International Space Station
credit: NASA

A short while later, Robotics Officer John Bellingham, working from Mission Control in Houston took control of Canadarm2, and slowly maneuvered HTV-4 into a mating position, before the cargo vehicle was finally bolted and berthed to the Nadir(Earth facing) port of the Harmony Module.

Cassidy, Nyberg and Parmitano will now focus on finishing up this week's set of scientific experiments, before turning their attention to preparing the vestibule between the HTV and the Harmony Module. Hatches between the two spacecraft are scheduled toopen at 11:30 a.m. UTC on Saturday, August 10th.

HTV-4 is expected to remain docked to the station for a little over a month, before leaving the complex, filled with trash and other items which will no longer be needed by the astronauts and cosmonauts living aboard the ISS, departing on September 5th.