ISS Astronauts Grapple JAXA’s HTV-3

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Japan's HTV-3 moments from capture over the Indian Ocean. Image Credit: NASA TV

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station successfully captured the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s HTV-3 re-supply craft as it rendezvoused with the orbiting science lab early Friday.

NASA’s Joe Acaba, positioned in the station’s Cupola observation deck, reached out with the 58-foot-long Canadarm2 to grapple the 16.5 ton HTV-3 at 8:23 a.m., EDT, a short delay after the scheduled capture time to ensure sufficient lighting.

Captured at 40 feet from the station, the bus-sized long cargo carrier was to be maneuvered with the robot arm to the station’s U. S. segment Harmony module for berthing shortly before noon, EDT, by JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. HTV-3 will remain docked through early September and depart filled with trash for a destructive re-entry.

“It looks beautiful from here,” NASA’s Mission Control radioed Acaba and Hoshide as the delicate grapple operation neared.  “We are go for HTV-3 capture.”

The third of JAXA’s unpiloted ISS re-supply ships was launched from the  Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan on July 20 with more than four metric tons of internal and external supplies and research gear.

Friday’s operation unfolded smoothly. The failure of the backup reaction control system during the rendezvous activities had no impact on the operations.

Acaba and Hoshide were assisted in the Canadarm2 operations by NASA astronaut Sunita Williams.

In addition to food, clothing and other supplies, the HTV-3 delivered the station’s first aquatic habitat, an aquarium that will serve as home to medaka and zebra fish. The fish, which were not included in the current missions, will serve as subjects in studies focused on their skeletal and muscle develop in microgravity.

The new ground-controlled internal ISERV camera will gather imagery for climate change studies and disaster management.
The HTV-3’s external station cargo includes NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation Testbed, or SCAN.

Developed at the the Glenn Research Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, SCAN will pioneer the use of reprogrammable software defined radio for future spacecraft communication and navigation technologies.

JAXA’s small satellite orbital deployer will eject five cubesat payloads.

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