Thursday, September 17, 2009
A Japanese cargo craft with some five tons of supplies and equipment for the international space station was firmly docked to the orbiting complex late today, as it begins a six week stay.
The H-II Transfer Vehicle was slowly and carefully aligned with the station's Harmony module's docking port and hard mated officially at 6:26 pm EDT today, as the orbital pair flew 220 miles above the eastern central Pacific Ocean.
The Japanese cargo module is now docked in place where an Italian cargo module, Leonardo, was docked just over one week ago after being brought up by space shuttle Discovery.
The gold-wrapped module supporting 57 solar array panels is equipped with a pressurized and non-pressurized section, in support of science experiments and equipment racks. On Friday, at about 2:20 pm EDT, the six person crew aboard the space station will open the hatches to the module and begin unstowing items per their checklist.
The H-II cargo craft measures nearly 10 meters in length, and has a diameter of 4.4 meters. There are four thrusters on the tail section which burned Monomethylhydrazine to change it's orbital altitude and steer in close to the space station for docking.
Next week, a science rack of experiments destined for the Japanese Kibo module's exposed pallet, will be removed using the station's main robotic arm and later handed off to the Japanese robotic arm. Japan's arm will then dock the new rack of experiments to Kibo's exposed facility.
The HTV is planned to be undocked from the U.S. Harmony module on November 1st, and later in the day will reenter the earth's atmosphere over the western Pacific Ocean.