Thursday, September 17, 2009

Live In Orbit: New Supply Ship Moored At Station

A supply-filled Japanese cargo carrier is firmly moored at the International Space Station tonight after an operation that validated an unprecedented docking technique.

Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk berthed the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle, or HTV, to the nadir, of Earth-facing, port of the U.S. Harmony module with the station's 57.5-foot robot arm. The joined station and Asian space freighter were soaring 220 miles over the planet at the time.

The berthing took place at 6:26 p.m. U.S. astronaut Nicole Stott had captured the 33-foot-long cargo carrier at 3:47 p.m. as it approached within 30 feet of the international outpost.

The operation marked the first time the station's Canadian robot arm had been used to capture a visiting vehicle and then dock it at the outpost. Russian and European space freighters use automated docking systems when they arrive at the station.

U.S. commercial cargo carriers being developed for future supply runs will use the robot arm to dock with the station so today's operation was considered a key validation test.

Click to enlarge the series of four NASA TV screen grabs.

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