HTV-4 Cargo Vessel Delivers KIROBO Experiment To ISS
August 9, 2013

HTV-4 Cargo Vessel Delivers KIROBO Experiment To ISS

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Six days after Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched its H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-4) from Tanegashima Space Center, the cargo vessel made a successful berth with the International Space Station’s (ISS) Harmony node on Friday, August 9 at 11:38 a.m. EDT.

HTV-4, also known as Kounotori, or “white stork,” because it is transporting precious cargo, is delivering 3.5 tons of food, supplies, equipment and an experimental robot called KIROBO to the crewmembers of Expedition 36. KIROBO is expected to play a key role in ongoing missions aboard the ISS and to relay messages from the JAXA control team to their astronaut on the orbiting lab, whose name is Koichi Wakata.

KIROBO is equipped with speech recognition, natural language processing, speech synthesis, information communication, facial recognition and recording technology. The robot is programmed specifically to interact with Wakata and maintain a critical link between the space station and ground-based mission operators.

KIROBO will be complemented by a twin robot (MIRATA) that has stayed behind on Earth to monitor the overall mission, as well as KIROBO’s maneuvers.

During HTV-4’s docking procedure, Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg, with assistance from Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy, grappled the cargo ship with the station’s Canadarm2 at 7:22 a.m. EDT as it flew within 30 feet of the complex. Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano joined in by monitoring the systems of the HTV-4 during the final approach.

Once the astronauts had the ship in a secure grasp with Canadarm2, the robotics team at the NASA Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control Center remotely commanded the arm to guide HTV-4 to dock. Using a laptop computer, Nyberg and Cassidy conducted initial bolting and first stage capture of Harmony’s Active Common Berthing Mechanism (ACBM) with HTV-4’s Passive Common Berthing Mechanism (PCBM). Once that stage of the docking procedure was completed, Mission Control finished the job by completing the bolting process through second stage capture.

Once pressures equalize between the station and HTV-4, the crew will open the hatches, which should occur sometime on Saturday.

Besides KIBORO, the HTV-4 also holds test samples for research experiments inside the Kibo laboratory on the ISS, a new freezer capable of preserving materials at temperatures below -90F, four small CubeSat satellites for deployment from Kibo’s airlock and other supplies, such as food and water. These supplies are located in the craft’s pressurized compartment.

Along with the pressurized compartment, HTV-4 also has an unpressurized compartment that is carrying two orbital replacement units (ORUs) – a spare Main Bus Switching Unit (MBSU) and spare Utility Transfer Assembly (UTA).  These were sent to help keep the space station’s electrical system operating smoothly.

The unpressurized cargo hold is also carrying the Space Test Program-Houston 4 (STP-H4) payload, which is a suite of seven experiments for investigating space communications, Earth monitoring and materials science.

Once the HTV-4 vehicle is emptied of its contents, it will be refilled with unused equipment and trash in early September before undocking and being sent to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.


Image Below: The International Space Station's robotic arm, Canadarm2, moves the H-II Transfer Vehicle-4 into position for berthing on the Earth-facing port of the Harmony node. Credit: NASA TV