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Japan's maiden cargo spacecraft to lift off Friday
Posted On: Sep 08, 2009
Final preparations on for the HTV-1 spacecraft launch. Image Credit: JAXA
TOKYO (BNS): Japan is all set to launch its maiden unmanned cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) this Friday.
The spacecraft, built by Japanese space agency JAXA, will lift off from Tanegashima Space Centre in southern Japan at 0130 am local time on September 11. It will be launched on board the new Japan-made H-2B rocket, the space agency said.
The mission, called the H-2 Transfer Vehicle 1 (HTV-1), will deliver about 4.5 metric tons of scientific equipment to the orbital station. The spaceship is expected to dock at the ISS on September 17.
“JAXA is ready to carry out the important HTV-1 mission as a new contribution to the ISS program,” Masazumi Miyake, director of the JAXA office at NASA's Johnson Space Centre in Houston, said.
The 10-meter long and 4.4 meters wide spacecraft is a solar-powered cylinder, capable of carrying up to six tons of freight. However, it will be loaded with less cargo on its maiden flight.
JAXA and NASA officials earlier said the Japanese freighters “will be vital to support the space station's six-person crew once NASA's space shuttle fleet retires in the next year or so.”
So far, Russian and European unmanned freighters and the US space shuttles have performed the task of bringing vital supplies and equipment to the orbital station.
Unlike the automated cargo ships built by Russia and Europe, which can dock themselves at the station, the HTV-1 is designed to fly close to the orbiting laboratory and be grabbed by its robotic arm operated by the ISS crew.
After spending nearly a month at the space station, the disposable cargo ship is expected to be detached from the outpost and commanded to burn up in the Earth's atmosphere over the southern Pacific Ocean.
JAXA said it has spent about $680 million since 1997 to develop the HTV spacecraft.
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