Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Japan Launches HTV-5 Cargo Spacecraft to Space Station

Japan launches HTV-5 cargo spacecraft to Space Station on Aug. 19, 2015. Credit: JAXA

A new Japanese cargo ship is on its way to the International Space Station after a successful launch from southern Japan. Right on schedule, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)’s H-IIB rocket launched at 7:50 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, Aug. 19 from the Tanegashima Space Center. At the time of launch, the space station was flying 250 miles above the Atlantic Ocean east of Brazil. Approximately 15 minutes after launch, the HTV-5 cargo spacecraft successfully separated from the rocket and began its five-day rendezvous with the International Space Station.

The spacecraft is carrying more than 9,500 pounds of research and supplies for the six-person station crew, including the CALorimetric Electron Telescope (CALET) investigation, an astrophysics mission that will search for signatures of dark matter and provide the highest energy direct measurements of the cosmic ray electron spectrum.

HTV-5 was originally scheduled to be launched sometime in 2014, but the launch was postponed due to delays in the construction and qualification testing of the payload to fly on the capsule. The delay would ensure that all components of the payload could be flown together under one mission. There were also delays from August 16 up until the actual day of launch due to unfavorable weather on the island.

JAXA and NASA teams adjusted the cargo manifest to deliver additional food supplies and critical components lost in the failure of the seventh SpaceX commercial resupply services mission. The delivery will ensure the crew has plenty of food through the end of 2015. HTV-5 is delivering two multifiltration beds that filter contaminants from the station’s water supply, a Fluids Control and Pump Assembly used for urine processing to support water recycling, a Wring Collector used in conjunction with the on-orbit toilet, a Respiratory Support Pack used in space to provide breathing assistance to an astronaut in the event lung function were impaired and space suit support equipment used during spacewalks.

On Monday, Aug. 24, JAXA Flight Engineer Kimiya Yui will use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture the unpiloted HTV spacecraft at approximately 6:55 a.m. NASA TV coverage Friday will begin at 5:15 a.m. NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren will provide assistance as necessary. The HTV will spend five weeks attached to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module on the international outpost.

Once it has departed from the ISS, it will begin its journey back to Earth. Within its unpressurized cargo bay, HTV-5 will be carrying waste materials and other items, such as the Multi-mission Consolidated Equipment (MCE), the Superconducting Submillimeter-Wave Limb-Emission Sounder (SMILES), and a NASA experiment module Space Test Program Houston 4 (STP-H4).

A day later, on September 28, Kounotori-5 is scheduled to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere to complete its mission. Pieces of debris from the breakup are estimated to fall into the South Pacific Ocean but may also land in the Indian Ocean.

The spacecraft itself has been modified from previous Kounotori missions to include two major upgrades to aid in its mission. The first of these is a cosmetic change to its solar panels, which were implemented with equipment to measure the environment, called KASPER. KASPER stands for Advanced Space Environment Research.

The other change is with the loading of the Cargo Transfer Bag, which now allows for an increased capacity of 242 bags, compared to the previous 230. Space for late access cargo has also been raised to a maximum of 92 bags, where it used to hold only 80 bags.

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