Japan’s HTV-3 Boosts Biology, Earth Observation, Advanced Communications Experiments to the ISS

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The third of Japan’s supply and experiment filled H-II transfer vehicles, or the HTV-3, soared into Earth orbit atop an H-IIB rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center late Friday, initiating a seven day trip to the six-person  International Space Station.

The Kounotori supply ship, with its 4.6 tons of cargo, is scheduled to rendezvous with the orbiting science lab on July 27, after 7 a.m., EDT. Station astronauts Joe Acaba and Akihiko Hoshide will be posted at the controls of Canadarm2 in the Cupola observation deck, ready to track and capture the unpiloted supply ship and berth it to the U. S. segment Harmony module.

The H-IIB rocket carrying the HTV-3 payload,  rose from Tanegashima in southern Japan at 10:06 p.m, EDT, or Saturday at 11:06 a.m., local time.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency freighter carries 3.5 metric tons of internal space station cargo, including food and clothing.

The internal research gear includes the station’s first aquatic habitat, a small aquarium for medaka and zebra fish. The fish, launched on a future mission, will serve as subjects in a series of bone loss investigations, much as rodents have filled that role in U.S. experiments designed to address human skeletal deterioration in the absence of gravity.

Two new imagers, the ISS Agricutural Camera, or ISSAC, and the Environmental Research and Visualization System, or ISERV, will expand the station’s Earth observing role. ISSAC will provide visible and infrared imagery of crop, grazing and wetlands regions of the U. S. northern plains and Rocky Mountain region to farmers, foresters and natural resource managers.

ISERV is a pathfinder for future satellite remote sensing instruments for climate and population change research as well as disaster assessment and management. Initial users will include Central and South American government agencies.

The HTV-3’s 1.1 metric tons of external station cargo includes NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation Testbed, or SCAN.  Developed by NASA’s Glenn Research Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory,  SCAN will pioneer the use of software designed radio for future spacecraft communication and navigation technologies.

The first JAXA station freighters took flight in 2009 and 2011. The initial flight served as a pathfinder for the robot arm track and capture berthing techniques employed by NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services partners, SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. The technique was used to berth the first in the commercial line, the SpaceX/Dragon capsule, in May.

 

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