Friday, September 7, 2018

Japan to Launch HTV-7 Spacecraft on a Cargo Delivery Mission to ISS

HTV-7 at the Second Spacecraft Test and Assembly Building, Tanegashima Space Center. Photo Credit: JAXA.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is gearing up to launch on Monday, September 10, its seventh cargo resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). The mission, designated HTV-7, is slated to deliver more than six metric tons of cargo to the orbital outpost.

The seventh H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-7), also known as Kounotori-7 (Kounotori means White Stork in Japanese), is expected to blast off atop a medium-lift H-IIB launch vehicle the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. Liftoff is scheduled for 6:32 p.m. EDT (7:32 a.m. local time on September 11).

HTV-7 was unveiled to the public on July 28 during a press briefing at the Tanegashima Space Center. Details about the mission were presented to journalists by Hirohiko Uematsu, Director of HTV Technology Center at JAXA.

The spacecraft is now in the final phase of pre-launch preparations, which include the last checks of the electronics and flight control systems. Final reconfigurations of the spacecraft will be conducted around one hour before the planned liftoff to prepare it for the automatic countdown sequence about four-and-a-half minutes ahead of the launch.

After the planned liftoff, the H-IIB rocket is expected to complete a short vertical ascent before performing a pitch and roll maneuver and turning southeasterly. The flight should last about 15 minutes until the HTV-7 cargo craft is deployed into space.

The separation from the launch vehicle’s second stage will start the spacecraft’s trek to the ISS, lasting approximately three and a half days. HTV-7 is scheduled to arrive at the Space Station on Friday, September 14. NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Serena Auñón-Chancellor will operate the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture the cargo vessel at around 7:40 a.m. EDT. ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst will monitor HTV-7 systems during its approach to the station. The spacecraft is planned to be installed on the Harmony module of the ISS.

HTV-7 is loaded with about 6.2 metric tons of supplies, fresh food, water, spare parts and experiments. Six new lithium ion batteries for ISS, weighing approximately 1.9 metric tons are placed inside the spacecraft’s Unpressurized Logistic Carrier (ULC), while the rest, weighing around 4.3 metric tons, is stored in the Pressurized Logistic Carrier (PLC).

Besides supplies for the ISS crew, the cargo in the PLC part of the HTV-7 spacecraft includes two EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments for Space Station (EXPRESS) Racks, namely EXPRESS Rack 9B and 10B. These are multipurpose payload rack systems that store and support research aboard the ISS. They enable quick, simple integration of multiple payloads.

PLC also contains ESA’s Life Support Rack (LSR), an equipment for demonstration test of effective life support system which produces oxygen from water, and the Life Sciences Glovebox (LSG) - the second ISS large-scale glovebox for scientific experiments. The payload inside this carrier also includes the Loop Heat Pipe Radiator (LHPR) technology demonstration system, the JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD) and three CubeSats, named SPATIUM-I, RSP-00 and STARS-Me, developed jointly by universities in Japan and Singapore.

One of the most important experiments that will be delivered to ISS by HTV-7 is JAXA’s HTV Small Re-entry Capsule (HSRC). This cone-shaped capsule, with dimensions of 2.0 by 2.7 feet (0.61 by 0.82 meters), will demonstrate re-entry technology and cargo recovery function from the Space Station. After the departure of HTV-7 from the ISS this fall, HSRC is expected to separate from the spacecraft’s hatch for a parachute-assisted splashdown off the coast of Japan, when it will be recovered.

On the HTV-7’s list of experiments are also: a new sample holder for the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (JAXA-ELF), a protein crystal growth experiment at low temperatures (JAXA LT PCG), and an investigation that looks at the effect of microgravity on bone marrow (MARROW).

The soda-can shaped HTV spacecraft weighs some 10.5 metric tons, is about 33 feet (10 meters) long and 14.4 feet (4.4 meters) in diameter. Built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan, the vessel besides ULC and PLC features also the Exposed Pallet (EP), as well as an Avionics Module and a Propulsion Module. The spacecraft also includes the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM), known as “Kibo” (“Hope” in Japanese), which is equipped with antennas, reflectors, and a Proximity Communication System (PROX) that enables inter-orbit communication with the HTV as the cargo craft approaches the ISS.

Japan has so far conducted six HTV missions to ISS, all of them were successful. The first, HTV-1 was launched nine years ago, on September 10, 2009. It arrived at the station one week later and returned to Earth on November 1, 2009. Next mission of the Kounotori spacecraft, HTV-8, is scheduled for February 2019. The exact date is yet to be announced by JAXA.

The H-IIB rocket that will be employed for Monday’s launch is a two-stage launch vehicle derived from the H-II rocket of the 1990s. Standing just slightly taller than both rockets in the H-II family at 183.7 feet (57 meters), it uses the standard liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellant formula. H-IIB was used for the first time to launch the HTV-1 spacecraft to ISS.

The launch of HTV-7 will mark the fifth orbital mission for Japan in 2018. Next Japanese launch is scheduled for October 29, when an H-IIA rocket is planned to orbit several satellites, including CubeSats, for Japan and other countries.

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