Saturday, January 22, 2011

Japan launches cargo ship to ISS

Japan launched an unmanned cargo freighter early Saturday on a mission to the International Space Station.

The freighter nicknamed the "white stork" launched on an H-IIB rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan at 12:37 a.m. EST.

The spacecraft is expected to arrive at the station on Jan. 27, where astronauts Cady Coleman and Paolo Nespoli will use the station's robotic arm to grab it and attach it to the Harmony module.

The spacecraft is carrying 5.3 tons of supplies and equipment, including about four tons of pressurized cargo and the station's first large external spare parts launched on a vehicle other than the shuttle.

Click for a story about Kennedy Space Center's role in preparing two large spare parts for the launch.

The HTV-2 leads off a month of busy traffic to the space station by international partner vehicles.

A Russian Progress cargo vehicle is targeted to launch Jan. 28, followed by Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle Feb. 15 and shuttle Discovery on Feb. 24.

The spacecraft later will be temporarily moved to a space-facing port to make way for Discovery's visit.

IMAGE: An H-IIB rocket launched Japan's HTV-2 spacecraft from the Tanegashema Space Center early Saturday. Credit: JAXA.

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