The astronaut crew living in Earth’s orbit on the International Space Station needs regular supply missions consisting of food, equipment, and various other things so that they can continue with their research in various domains. The latest resupply mission will be handled by a Japanese cargo ship.
The spacecraft known as H-II Transfer Vehicle 6 (HTV-6) launched Friday on December 9th, at 10:16 Japan time. The cargo ship launched on top of an H-IIB rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan.
The HTV-6 will take four days to reach the ISS with its cargo consisting of more than 4.5 tons of food and water supplies. The cargo ship will also deliver various spare parts and other scientific equipment for the astronauts aboard the ISS.
One of the most noteworthy pieces of equipment that the cargo ship is carrying are six new lithium-ion batteries and adapter plates. They will replace the current nickel-hydrogen batteries used to store the energy produced by the solar arrays of the ISS. According to a statement released by NASA, the equipment will be installed during a set of spacewalks which are scheduled in January.
The cargo ship is also known by the Kounotori 6 which means white stork in Japanese and it is scheduled to arrive at the ISS on December 13th, during the early morning hours. The ISS crewmembers will be ready to grapple the HTV-6 using the lab’s robotic arm. The vehicle will be installed on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module.
The cargo ship will remain attached to the ISS for around five weeks. During this time, the astronauts will fill it with various trash and unnecessary equipment. After their done, the crew will release it and send it to burn in the planet’s atmosphere.
Out of four robotic resupply spacecraft operating today, only SpaceX’s Dragon capsule is designed to safely return to Earth. The HTV, Russia’s Progress freighter, and Orbital ATK’s Cygnus are all designed to be disposable to begin with.
The Japanese HTV resupply mission comes after the Progress ship fell back to Earth due to a failure of the Soyuz rocket. Several other problems have plagued all other resupply ships except the Japanese HTV, which completed all of its five missions without major problems.
Image source: Wikimedia