Japan launches cargo spacecraft to the ISS, carrying CubeSats from Japan, Singapore

HTV-4. Image courtesy of JAXA.

On September 23, at 2:54 a.m. JST (UTC+9), Japan’s space agency JAXA launched its cargo spacecraft, Kounotori-7 (HTV7), to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch took place using Japan’s H-IIB rocket, manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), from JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Center.

One of four ISS cargo spacecraft – the others being SpaceX’s Dragon, Orbital ATK/Northrop Grumman’s Cynus, and Russia’s Soyuz – the Kounotori was first launched in 2009 and has so far completed 7 flights to the ISS.

Kounotori-7 will deliver 6.2 tonnes of cargo to the ISS, including a mini space elevator experiment by Shizuoka University. Known as STARS-Me, the experiment takes the form of a 2U CubeSat with a demonstration mission of configuration of two satellites and a climber.

The cargo also includes SPATIUM-I, a 2U CubeSat jointly developed by Japan’s Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU). The CubeSat carries a chip-scale (ultra-small) atomic clock for CubeSats, and will also demonstrate technologies for electron density measurement and 3-D mapping of the ionosphere.

Along with experiments and necessities for the ISS, such as food, racks and lithium batteries, Kounotori-7 also carries the HTV Small Re-entry Capsule (HSRC), which will be used when the vehicle returns to Earth. The capsule will recover experiment samples from ISS, which Japan has not done so far. It will be delivered from the Kounotori-7 using a parachute, which will dive into the sea around Minamitori Island.

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