Wednesday, September 19, 2018

New HTV-7 Launch Date Announced By JAXA

HTV-7 spacecraft. Credit: JAXA

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), together with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI), revealed on Wednesday, September 19, the new launch date of Japan’s seventh cargo flight to the International Space Station (ISS).

According to a latest press release issued by JAXA, the HTV-7 mission (also known as Kounotori 7), will lift off at 2:15 p.m. EDT on Friday, September 21 (3:15 local time on Thursday, September 22). The cargo craft will launch atop an H-IIB rocket from Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan.

HTV-7 was initially scheduled to be launched September 10 at 6:32 p.m. EDT (September 11 local time at 7:32 a.m.). However, unfavorable weather conditions, including strong winds caused by a typhoon near Guam, forced JAXA to put the launch on hold. Guam is home for the main ground tracking station necessary in order to maintain communications between flight controllers and H-IIB/HTV-7.

After careful examination of the weather, the launch was rescheduled to September 14, 4:59 a.m. EDT (5:59 a.m. local time on September 15), but this time the liftoff was scrubbed about two hours before ignition of H-IIB’s engines. The launch was halted due to an issue with the rocket’s propulsion system and the latest postponement by a week allowed the engineers to identify the problem and to solve it.

“MHI and JAXA have taken the course of action necessary to identify and deal with the cause that the investigation revealed. The corrective measures which ensued from the investigation have completed,” JAXA wrote in a press release.

Given that the launch was postponed by a week, the HTV-7 spacecraft should arrive at ISS on Tuesday, September 25. Its capture by the station’s robotic Canadarm2 is now scheduled for around 8:00 a.m. EDT.

As was the case with previous delay the new launch date and the exact liftoff time are subject to change. They are dependent on weather forecasts, ISS operations and the station’s current orbit. The reserve launch window is still open till October 31.

Built by MHI, the 23,100-lbs (10,500-kilogram) vessel is loaded with about 6.2 metric tons of supplies, fresh food, water, spare parts and experiments. The cargo aboard HTV-7 includes six new lithium-ion batteries for the station. Given that two spacewalks, on September 20 and September 26, were planned with a primary task to replace the old nickel-hydrogen batteries with the new lithium-ion units, the new dates of these extravehicular activities should be announced soon.

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