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Japan's HTV-4 Re-supply Mission Heads for Aug. 9 ISS Rendezvous and Berthing


The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's HTV-4 Kounotori re-supply mission lifted off for the International Space Station on Saturday, climbing to orbit from the Tanageshima Launch Center with a 3.6-ton cargo that includes hardware intended to add a cryogenic satellite servicing dimension to NASA's Robotic Refueling Mission.


JAXA's HTV-4 resupply mission takes flight from the Tanageshima Launch Center.  Photo Credits: JAXA and NASA TV.

The two stage H-IIB rocket carrying the HTV-4 supply ship lifted off at 3:48 p.m., EDT., or Sunday at 4:48 a.m., local time, initiating a five day transit to the six-person ISS.

ISS astronauts Chris Cassidy and Karen Nyberg will be positioned at the controls of Canada's 58-foot-long robot arm as the 10 meter-long HTV-4 rendezvous with the orbiting science lab.  After grappling the Japanese supply capsule with the robot arm, the two NASA astronauts will maneuver the freighter to a berthing port on the station's U.S. segment Harmony module.

The robot arm grapple is tentatively scheduled for 7:29 a.m., EDT, with berthing operations to follow. European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano will assist with operations involving the fourth Japanese re-supply mission launched since September 2009.

HTV-4 is scheduled to remain berthed until Sept. 4, when it will depart to clear a berthing port for the Orbital Sciences Corp., Antares/Cygnus demonstration mission flown under the sponsorship of NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program.

The latest of the unpiloted Japanese freighters carries 5,370 pounds of pressurized cargo -- food, clothing, water, spare parts and experiment hardware -- as well as 1,880 pounds of external equipment that includes a spare NASA main bus switching unit and utility transfer assembly to support power and data transfers outside the station.

Launched aboard the final NASA shuttle mission and installed on the ISS solar power truss in mid-2011, the washing machine-sized Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) module was developed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center to demonstrate a satellite refueling capability by working with the Canadian Space Agency's two-armed Dextre robot. That capability, which extends to satellites never designed to be re-fueled, was successfully demonstrated in January with an ethanol fuel transfer. That phase followed robotic activities, demonstrating capabilities to cut lock wires and manipulate fuel caps.

In addition to new fuel, some aging satellites need to be recharged with coolant for sustained thermal control.

The HTV-4 is carrying a new task board for cryogenic demonstration activities planned for 2014 as well as an RRM On Orbit Transfer Cage (ROTC). The new gear will be assembled by astronauts inside the station and moved through a small experiment airlock in the Japanese Kibo module to within reach of Dextre and positioning on the RRM. A second RRM task board and a borescope designed to provide ground controllers with a remote look inside an orbiting satellite undergoing robotic servicing are headed for a 2014 launch.

The cryogenic technology demonstration activities would follow.

Other ISS cargos aboard the HTV-4 include a pair of experiment freezers and four CubeSats designed for deployments from Kibo. Also aboard is the NASA/DOD Space Test Program 4, eight external experiments, including space weather and radiation monitors as well as nano-satellite technology evaluation gear.

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