Thursday, August 1, 2013

Japanese HTV-4 Cargo Craft Launches on its way to ISS

HTV-4 Mission Insignia
credit: JAXA
A Japanese cargo ship has launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan, bound for the International Space Station.

The unmanned HTV-4, nicknamed "Kounotori", launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan at 7:48 p.m. GMT aboard a H-IIB rocket, bound for the International Space Station.

HTV-4, carrying 6 tonnes of cargo will orbit the Earth, will gradually make its way closer to the Space Station as it performs a series of orbital maneuvers, prior to rendezvous and berthing to the Earth-facing side of the station's Harmony Module, scheduled for August 9th.

Unlike other ISS resupply crafts, HTV has 2 types of logistics carrier sections; a pressurised section where Expedition 36 crew members can work when the HTV is berthed to the nadir facing port of  the space station's Harmony Module; and an unpressurised Exposed Pallet that accommodates JAXA's Kibo Exposed Facilty payloads.

JAXA's HTV-4 cargo ship is the fourth Japanese HII Transfer Vehicle to resupply the orbiting outpost, since the first HTV-1 visited back in 2009. 

HTV Components
credit: JAXA
The arrival of the HTV-4 comes during a busy period of ISS Science Research and station expansion. The Expedition 36 crew on board the station are currently working on around 130 scientific experiments, flying 250 miles above Planet Earth.

HTV-4 is scheduled to remain berthed to the station's Harmony Module for around 35 days. In the meantime, cargo will be unloaded and used by the crew on board. It will also be filled with trash and other waste materials, before it is released on Septmeber 5th, before a destructive re-entry to burn up in the Earth's atmosphere two days later.