Japan Will Launch a Cargo Ship to Space Station Friday: Watch It Live

Japan's HTV-6 Cargo Spacecraft
Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle 6 (also known as Kounotori 6) is seen here at the Second Spacecraft Test and Assembly Building at Tanegashima Space Center. The freighter is scheduled to launch on Dec. 9, 2016. (Image credit: JAXA)

A Japanese cargo vessel will launch toward the International Space Station tomorrow morning (Dec. 9), and you can watch the liftoff live.

The robotic H-II Transfer Vehicle-6 (HTV-6) is scheduled to launch Friday at 8:26 a.m. EST (1326 GMT; 10:26 p.m. Japan time) from Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. You can watch the Japanese space launch live here, courtesy of NASA TV; coverage begins at 8 a.m. EST (1300 GMT).

HTV-6 — also known as Kounotori 6, from the Japanese for "white stork" — is loaded up with more than 4.5 tons of water, spare parts, gear for science experiments and other supplies, NASA officials said. If all goes according to plan, the freighter will arrive at the ISS on Tuesday (Dec. 13), when astronauts will grapple HTV-6 using the orbiting lab's huge robotic arm.

ISS cargo missions don't always go according to plan. Just last week, for example, Russia's uncrewed Progress 65 vessel suffered a major failure shortly after launch and fell back to Earth, resulting in the loss of more than 2.5 tons (2.3 metric tons) of cargo.

Another Progress mission failed in April 2015, and launch accidents destroyed private American freighters in October 2014 (Orbital ATK's Cygnus spacecraft) and June 2015 (SpaceX's Dragon capsule). (Both Orbital and SpaceX have mounted successful cargo missions since these failures.)

As its name suggests, Kounotori 6 will be the sixth HTV mission to launch toward the ISS. The previous five were all successful.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.