A unpiloted Japanese resupply ship will launch to the International Space Station today (Sept. 24) after a two-week delay due to a launchpad fire and you can watch the liftoff live online.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will launch the unpiloted spacecraft HTV-8 (also known as Kounotori8) toward the space station from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan atop an H-IIB rocket. Liftoff is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. EDT (1605 GMT). It will be 1:05 a.m. Wednesday at the launch site. You can watch the launch live here via NASA TV at 11:30 a.m. EDT (1530 GMT). JAXA is offering its own webcast here beginning at 11:47 a.m. EDT (1547 GMT).
HTV-8 is hauling more than 4 tons of supplies to the International Space Station for the outpost's six-person crew. JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which built the H-IIB rocket, tried to launch the HTV-8 mission on Sept. 10, but a fire on the launchpad just below the rocket forced them to call off the launch.
MHI representatives have said the fire, a first for the company and JAXA, was caused by an unexpected concentration of flammable oxygen vapors at the pad. "We have taken corrective measures and have confirmed normal functioning of the rocket and facility," they said in a statement.
"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."
Also riding aboard HTV-8 are a small, experimental satellite optical communication system called SOLIS (designed to allow 100Mbps downlink speeds from the space station), 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 cargo ships are brilliant gold, cylindrical spacecraft designed for one-time delivery trips to the International Space Station. They launch on JAXA's H-IIB rockets built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, hence their name: H-II Transfer Vehicle, or HTV.
Photos: Japan's Robotic Space Cargo Ship Fleet
Each HTV spacecraft includes internal compartment which astronauts can access from inside the station and an external payload area for exterior equipment like the new solar array batteries. At the end of their missions, HTV vehicles are filled with trash and released to intentionally burn up in Earth's atmosphere.
HTV-8 is currently scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station early Saturday (Sept. 28), where it will be captured by astronauts using the orbiting laboratory's robotic arm. The spacecraft will then be attached to an available docking port on the station's Harmony module.
NASA will webcast HTV-8's arrival at the space station on Saturday beginning at 5:45 a.m. EDT (0945 GMT), with robotic arm capture scheduled for 7:15 a.m. EDT (1115 GMT). NASA's webcast will resume at 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT) on Saturday to cover HTV-8's attachment to the Harmony module.
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- JAXA: Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency