September 11, 2009

Japan Launches First Cargo Craft To ISS

Japan successfully launched its first-ever cargo vehicle on Friday to the International Space Station.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched the H-2 Transfer Vehicle (HTV) from the Tanegashima Space Center via an H-2B rocket at 1:01 p.m. EDT Thursday (2:01 a.m. Japan Standard Time).

JAXA reported that the launch vehicle flew smoothly and at about 15 minutes and 6 seconds after liftoff, the vehicle successfully separated from the rocket.

The HTV is an unmanned cargo craft that is built to carry up to six tons of supplies to the ISS as well as return other items from the orbiting outpost, such as waste material, which will be burned as the craft makes re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.

Russia's Progress freighter can carry 2.5 tons, while the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) has a capacity of 7.5 tons.

For its first mission, the HTV will be carrying 4.5 tons of goods to the ISS crew.

"This HTV-1 vehicle is a demonstration flight to verify its functionality and performance," Masazumi Miyake, a JAXA senior official in the US, told BBC News.

"After completion of this mission we are planning to launch one operational HTV per year on average."

"We want to build on this success and continue the program," JAXA president Keiji Tachikawa told reporters.

The HTV is scheduled to connect with the ISS Thursday, September 17.

NASA mission control will work with engineers in Tsukuba, Japan to manage the flight.

According to AFP, JAXA has spent 68 billion yen on the development of the craft, which will one day be used to carry humans.

Currently, Japan does not possess a manned spacecraft.


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