JAXA Successfuly Launches HTV5 Cargo Ship to ISS

JAXA Successfuly Launches HTV5 Cargo Ship to ISS

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency(JAXA) successfully launched its fifth cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) today.   The HTV5 or Kounotori5 mission is due to arrive at the ISS on Monday.

This fifth H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV5) is taking about 9,500 pounds of supplies, equipment and scientific experiments to the ISS crew.  Of that, approximately 8,000 pounds is pressurized cargo including 3,000 pounds of food, water, clothing and perishable goods; 1,900 pounds of vehicle hardware including two new science racks; 2,700 pounds of science equipment; and 170 pounds of equipment for spacewalks.  The remainder is unpressurized cargo, including JAXA’s CALorimetric Electron Telescope (CALET) that will search for signatures of dark matter.  CALET’s principal investigator is Shorji Torii of Waseda University in Tokyo.

The HTV5 capsule is designated Kounotori (White Stork) so the mission is referred to by JAXA as HTV5 or Kounotori5 (NASA adds hyphens so calls it HTV-5 or Kounotori-5).

JAXA’s H-IIB rocket minutes before liftoff from Tanegashima, Japan carrying HTV5.  August 19, 2015.  Photo credit:  NASA TV

In one sense this is a routine cargo launch, one of many needed each year to keep the ISS and its crew functioning.  Cargo launches to the ISS have been anything but routine over the past year, however, with three failures of U.S. and Russian systems:  U.S. Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares failure on October  28, 2014 (Orb-3); Russia’s Soyuz 2.1a failure on April 28, 2015 (Progress M-27M); and U.S. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 failure on June 28, 2015 (SpaceX-7).

Russia’s Progress since has returned to flight, with the successful Progress M-28M now docked to the ISS.  Orbital Sciences Corporation merged with ATK earlier this year and Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft is expected to return to service on December 3, but aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket rather than Antares.  Orbital ATK is refitting Antares with a different rocket engine (Russia’s RD-181) and the first launch of this new version of Antares is expected in the first quarter of 2016.   SpaceX has not announced when the Falcon 9 will resume launches or what the first one will carry.

HTV5 is now on its way to ISS, however, with a smooth launch at 8:50:49 pm Japan Standard Time (7:50:49 am Eastern Daylight Time) today.   It is on a 5-day rendezvous trajectory, with arrival at the ISS scheduled for Monday, August 24.  The ISS crew will use the robotic Canadarm2 to grapple HTV5 at approximately 6:55 am EDT and it will be berthed to the ISS Harmony module about three hours later.

JAXA’s Kimiya Yui is aboard ISS along with five other ISS crew members:  two from NASA (Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren) and three from Roscosmos (Mikhail Kornienko, Gennady Padalka, and Oleg Kononenko).  Yui will operate Canadarm2 on Monday to capture HTV5.  Lindgren will assist as necessary.

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