Update: JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have postponed today's launch of the HTV-8 cargo ship due to a fire near the mission's H-IIB rocket's launchpad.
An unpiloted Japanese supply ship will launch to the International Space Station today (Sept. 10) and you can watch it leave Earth live courtesy of NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
The robotic spacecraft HTV-8 (also known as Kounotori8) will launch toward the space station from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan at 5:33 p.m. EDT (2133 GMT). It will be 6:33 a.m. local time Wednesday at the launch site. You can watch the launch live here and on Space.com's homepage via NASA TV at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT). JAXA is offering its own webcast here beginning at 5:07 p.m. EDT (2107 GMT).
HTV-8 is hauling more than 4 tons of supplies to the International Space Station for the outpost's six-person crew. By coincidence, the mission is launching on the tenth anniversary of JAXA's first-ever HTV launch in 2009.
"Named Kounotori, meaning white stork in Japanese, the craft will deliver six new lithium-ion batteries and corresponding adapter plates that will replace aging nickel-hydrogen batteries for two power channels on the station's far port truss segment," NASA officials said in a statement. "The batteries will be installed through a series of robotics and spacewalks by the station’s crew members later this year."
The spacecraft is also carrying a small, experimental satellite optical communication system called SOLISS, the experiment Hourglass to test the effects of gravity on powder and granular material and an upgrade for the station's Cell Biology Experiment Facility, NASA officials added.
Japan's HTV spacecraft (the name is short for H-II Transfer Vehicle) are brilliant gold, cylindrical cargo ships designed for one-way delivery trips to the International Space Station. They launch on JAXA's H-IIB rockets built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
Photos: Japan's Robotic Space Cargo Ship Fleet
Each HTV spacecraft has an internal compartment to allow astronauts to unpack cargo inside the station, and an external payload area for equipment like the new solar array batteries, which are destined for the station's exterior. At the end of their missions, HTV vehicles are packed with unneeded items and released to burn up in Earth's atmosphere.
If all goes well, HTV-8 will arrive at the space station early Saturday (Sept. 14) to be captured by astronauts using the station's robotic arm. The spacecraft will then be attached to an available docking port on the station's Harmony module.
NASA's will webcast HTV-8's arrival at the space station on Saturday beginning at 5:30 a.m. EDT (0930 GMT), with installation activities to continue at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1130 GMT).
- Space Station's Robotic Cargo Ship Fleet (A Photo Guide)
- Photos: Japan Launches HTV-4 Cargo Ship to Space Station
- JAXA: Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency