The Japanese cargo spacecraft has begun its four-day journey to the International Space Station (ISS). Japan’s H-IIB rocket launched from the Tanegashima Space center in southern Japan.
The Japan Aerospace Agency (JAXA)’s H-IIB rocket launched at 8:26 a.m. EST (10:26 p.m. Japan time) on Friday, Dec. 9. At the time of launch, the space station was flying about 250 miles over the Phillipine Sea south of Japan. The spacecraft will arrive at the space station on Dec. 13 and grapple will begin at 4.30 a.m. Capture of the spacecraft is scheduled around 6 a.m. Coverage of the final installation to Harmony will resume at 9:15 a.m.
After 15 minutes of launch, the HTV-6 cargo spacecraft successfully separated from the rocket and began its four-day rendezvous with the International Space Station. Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA will be responsible for monitoring HTV-6 systems during the rendezvous and grapple.
On Tuesday, Dec.13, the HTV-6 will approach the station from below, and slowly inch its way toward the complex. Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) will operate the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm from the station’s cupola to reach out and grapple 12-ton spacecraft. Robotic ground controllers will then install it on Earth-facing side of Harmony module, where it will spend more than five weeks.
HTV-6 will stay attached to the ISS for about five weeks; the transfer vehicle will then be loaded with trash and sent to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. Three of the four robotic re-supply spaceships operating today-HTV, Russia’s Progress freighter and Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft – are disposable. Only SpaceX’s Dragon capsule is designed to return to earth in one piece.