Japan sends first cargo spacecraft to ISS

Sep 11, 2009
Japan's H-2B rocket carrying an unmanned HTV transportation vehicle launches from the Tanegashima Space Center on Tanegashima island, Kagoshima prefecture, Japan's southern island of Kyushu, September 11. Japan launched its first unmanned cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station, aiming for a share of space transport after the retirement of the US space shuttle fleet next year.

Japan on Friday launched its first unmanned cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station, aiming for a share of space transport after the retirement of the US space shuttle fleet next year.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the HTV transportation vehicle atop an H-2B rocket, which is also on its first flight, as scheduled just after 2:00 am (1700 GMT Thursday), agency images showed.

The vehicle separated from the rocket, as planned, about 15 minutes later.

"We want to build on this success and continue the programme," president Keiji Tachikawa told a news conference.

The agency plans to launch one such cargo spacecraft every year until 2015.

The rocket blasted off from the Tanegashima Space Centre on a southern Japanese island, with the HTV carrying 4.5 tonnes of supplies including food and daily necessities for the six ISS crew, as well as materials for experiments, such as seeds for growing plants in space.

Later this month, astronauts will for the first time operate a Canadian at the ISS to grab the HTV and dock it as the vehicle approaches the station.

The 10-metre (33-foot) long cylindrical vehicle, which cost 20 billion yen (217 million dollars), will deliver the supplies, load waste materials and return to Earth, burning up as it reenters the atmosphere.

Japan has spent 68 billion yen developing the vehicle, which could be modified in future to carry humans.

Japan currently has no spacecraft that can send people into space.

But, like China and India, it has been stepping up its space operations and in June ended the world's most extensive mission to the moon in decades, using an unmanned lunar orbiter. It hopes to send an astronaut there by 2020.

Japan faced an embarrassing failure in November 2003, when it had to destroy a rocket carrying a spy satellite 10 minutes after lift-off because one of the failed to separate from the fuselage.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which helped develop the H-2B programme, hailed Friday's successful launch.

"Until now, we have not been able to meet wishes of our clients to launch large satellites," said Hideaki Omiya, Mitsubishi Heavy president. "But H-2B allows us to meet most of the requests."

The HTV can carry up to six tonnes of supplies to the ISS, compared with 7.5 tonnes for the Automated Transfer Vehicle developed by the European Space Agency, and 2.5 tonnes for Russia's Progress spacecraft, the Japanese agency said.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Lunar explorers will walk at higher speeds than thought

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Japan sends first cargo spacecraft to ISS

Sep 10, 2009

Japan early Friday launched its first cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station, aiming for a share of space transport after the retirement of the US space shuttle fleet next year.

Jules Verne ATV launch approaching

Feb 11, 2008

After the successful launch of ESA’s Columbus laboratory aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis on Thursday (7 February), it is now time to focus on the next imminent milestone for ESA: the launch of Jules Verne, ...

Recommended for you

Lunar explorers will walk at higher speeds than thought

7 hours ago

Anyone who has seen the movies of Neil Armstrong's first bounding steps on the moon couldn't fail to be intrigued by his unusual walking style. But, contrary to popular belief, the astronaut's peculiar walk ...

Space: The final frontier... open to the public

8 hours ago

Historically, spaceflight has been reserved for the very healthy. Astronauts are selected for their ability to meet the highest physical and psychological standards to prepare them for any unknown challenges. However, with ...

NASA releases IRIS footage of X-class flare (w/ Video)

8 hours ago

On Sept. 10, 2014, NASA's newest solar observatory, the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, mission joined other telescopes to witness an X-class flare – an example of one of the strongest solar flares—on ...

NASA's Maven spacecraft reaches Mars this weekend

9 hours ago

Mars, get ready for another visitor or two. This weekend, NASA's Maven spacecraft will reach the red planet following a 10-month journey spanning 442 million miles (711 million kilometers).

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

earls
3 / 5 (1) Sep 11, 2009
Damn, "only" six tons, eh?

"Male African elephants weigh usually 6 tons"

That's a lot of work and fuel for one elephant. :p