Japan Readies for Launch of Cargo Ship to ISS on July 20 EDT--update
UPDATE: HTV-3 (Kounotori-3) was successfully launched at 10:06 pm EDT on July 20.
As America celebrates the 43rd anniversary of the first human landing on the Moon tomorrow, July 20, it can also celebrate the current era of international cooperation in human spaceflight as Japan launches its HTV-3 cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) where it will be met by an international crew of American, Russian and Japanese astronauts.
While the lunar Apollo program was a testament to U.S. engineering prowess, more recent human spaceflight programs have relied on international expertise. Europe's Spacelab module was a significant part of the space shuttle program and the space station program was international virtually from the start, with Europe, Japan and Canada officially signing on in 1988. Russia joined in 1993.
Japan's Aki Hoshide arrived aboard the ISS earlier this week along with American Suni Williams and Russian Yuri Malenchenko. They joined Russia's Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin and NASA's Joe Acaba who already were aboard. The six are now implementing "Expedition 32" in the ISS's 11th year of permanent occupancy by international crews.
They will welcome four tons of supplies being delivered by Japan's HTV-3 cargo spacecraft, or Kounotori-3, in the coming days.
Launch is scheduled for 10:18 pm tomorrow night (Friday) Eastern Daylight Time, which will be 11:18 am July 21 local time at Japan's Tanegashima launch site. NASA TV will cover the launch live. The spacecraft is scheduled to dock with the ISS on July 27.
NASA does not currently have any capability to send cargo (or crews) to the ISS itself. Cargo is delivered about four times a year by Russian Progress spacecraft and about once a year by Europe's ATV or Japan's HTV. In May, the U.S. company SpaceX successfully demonstrated the ability to deliver cargo on a commercial basis with its Dragon spacecraft, though NASA provided part of the funding to develop SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon. NASA hopes to begin regular ISS cargo service using Dragon later this year. NASA also is providing funding to help Orbital Sciences Corp. develop a competing commercial cargo system that could be operational next year.
Editor's note: JAXA news releases showed that the launch would be at 11:18 am local time in Japan (10:18 pm ET) until a few hours before launch. At that time, it adjusted the launch time to 11:06:18, which conformed with the time NASA had been reporting. Presumably the earlier JAXA news releases contained a typographical error.
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