Tuesday, September 08, 2009

HTV "go" for Thursday launch to station

With shuttle Discovery's departure, the six crew members on the International Space Station have quickly turned their attention to their next visitor: Japan's HTV cargo spacecraft, which is set to launch Thursday.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and space station managers today both gave a "go" for the launch, which is scheduled at 1:01 p.m. Eastern time from Tanegashima, Japan.

It's the first flight to the station for the unmanned spacecraft, and is considered an important test of docking procedures that will be used by the commercially designed vehicles NASA will rely on to ferry supplies after the shuttle's retirement.

The station's robotic arm will reach out and grapple the spacecraft and pull it into a port on the station's Harmony node. Docking is anticipated Sept. 17.

"We are not working any major issues on the station in support of that," said Dan Hartman, NASA's manager for mission operations and integration for the space station program. "They're not working any issues at the launch processing facility. So it looks like we'll have a shot for a launch on Thursday right around noon (Central time)."

Fueling of the H-IIB rocket is scheduled to start about 10 hours before launch, Hartman said.

Station crew members including former KSC engineer Nicole Stott tonight used a computer simulator (left) to train for the HTV docking.

Stott will lead the grappling of the spacecraft and its docking, at the same port that housed Discovery's Leonardo cargo module until Monday.

IMAGE NOTE: The H-IIB Launch Vehicle was moved to the launch pad for Ground Test Vehicle (GTV) 4 on July 9. Credit: JAXA.

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