Launched on 21 July, the automatic HTV-3 or Kounotori-3 (stork in Japanese) cargo ship was grasped by the Canadian robotic arm and berthed with the International Space Station one week later. It was carrying 3.6 tonnes of freight.
This photograph of the HTV cargo ship was taken by the International Space Station crew as it was making its approach. Credit: NASA
The Land of the Rising Sun has chalked up a third success with its automatic HTV (H-IIB Transfer Vehicle) space cargo ship. On 21 July, the Japanese H-IIB rocket successfully blasted off from the Tanegashima Space Centre sending the HTV-3 (or Kounotori-3) on its way to the Station (see this article). A week later on 27 July, as the freighter made its planned approach, the ISS’ Canadian robotic arm, Canadarm 2, was able to seize the freighter when it was just a few metres away. Controlled by the Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, the arm then mated the HTV-3 with the airlock on the Earth-facing Harmony module. The speeded up video below shows these recovery and docking operations.
The Station’s residents now have access to 3.1 tonnes of freight and equipment transported in the pressurised section of the cargo ship. JAXA’s automatic spaceships have one particularity: in addition to transporting freight in a pressurised section, they have a section exposed to the space vacuum that is intended to carry experiments or space parts to be positioned directly on the outside of the Station. The robotic arm will, therefore, be installing 453 kg of experiments on to the ISS’ platform designed for this purpose. Said transfer is scheduled to take place on 6 August 2012. In the video below, astronaut Catherine Coleman explains all about the operations linked to the Japanese HTV.
It is worthy of note that on the following day, 28 July, another cargo ship, the Russian Progress 47, automatically docked with the Station. In fact, this spaceship was detached from the orbiting complex so that it could carry out a second docking operation on 23 July. The Russian Space Agency wanted to use this manoeuvre to test a new docking system. However, a technical problem put an end to the test and it was decided to try again on 28 July. This attempt was, therefore, successful as can be seen in the video below.
On Monday 6 August the Mars rover Curiosity should land on the red planet. From today Enjoy Space and Cité de l’Espace are offering you the chance to follow this event on Twitter, and then by video, direct from the NASA JPL in California!