New Delhi: The Japanese cargo spaceship Kounotori 6 (HTV6) was successfully launched atop H-IIB Launch Vehicle No 6 (H-IIB F6) on Friday to deliver supplies to astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)'s H-IIB rocket carrying the spaceship Kounotori 6 lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, at 10:26 p.m. local time (GMT 1326) on Friday, December 9, 2016.
Watch the lift off of HII-B rocket carrying the unmanned 'Kounotori 6' from the Tanegashima Space Center, Japan.
Video credit: NASA
A little more than 15 minutes after the launch, the HTV-6 cargo spacecraft successfully separated from the rocket and began its four-day rendezvous with the International Space Station.
At the time of launch, the space station was flying about 250 miles over the Philippine Sea south of Japan.
The HTV-6 cargo craft is packed with some 5.9 tonnes of supplies, including food, drinking water and other necessities for the astronauts aboard the orbiting lab. It also carries some batteries and ultrasmall satellites.
The HTV-6 is expected to dock with the space station on Tuesday December13, where the spacecraft will approach the station from below, and slowly inch its way toward the complex.
Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) will operate the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm from the station’s cupola to reach out and grapple the 12-ton spacecraft.
Robotic ground controllers will then install it on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module, where it will spend more than five weeks.
Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA will monitor HTV-6 systems during the rendezvous and grapple.
Before re-entering the atmosphere, the Kounotori 6 will also conduct experiment on an electrodynamic tether, called the Kounotori Integrated Tether Experiment (KITE).
The launch, originally scheduled for September 2016, was postponed due to piping leakage.
Friday's successful launch comes just eight days after a Russian Progress loaded with 5,400 pounds of cargo fell back to Earth, apparently doomed by an issue with the third stage of the vessel's Soyuz rocket.
Russian space agency Roscosmos said in a statement that communication was lost with the Progress cargo ship 383 seconds after the launch.
Kounotori 6 is the last cargo delivery of 2016 to the space station.