Sunday, November 14, 2010

Kounotori---the Japanese mission to the ISS

        It has been christened Kounotori meaning white stork. Any idea what has been named after this bird?
It happened on Thursday November 11,2010.
        The beautiful name has been given to a Japanese cargo transfer vehicle which will carry supplies to the ISS in January 2011.  The name was chosen because a white stork carries an image of conveying an important thing--a baby, happiness and joyful events, says the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

        According to Jaxa, there were 17,236 suggestions for naming the spacecraft from the public. Of these 217 proposed the name of Kounotori and was accepted.

        The spacecraft which can carry upto 6000 kgs of supplies to the ISS will be launched by the Japanese H11-B rocket no 2 at around 3.29 p.m. (Japan Standard Time) on Thursday, January 20 2011. Known as the HTV, the 16-tonne spaceccraft will join the ranks of the Russian Progress spacecraft, the US space shuttle, and the Automated Transfer Vehicle designed and developed by the European Space Agency. But, what makes the HTV different is that it will be the only unmanned spacecraft which will have the capability to fly both pressurised and unpressurised cargo.

         The mission plan envisages the HTV being grappled by the ISS's remote manipulator system known as Canadarm-2 and being berthed to the space station. After the supplies such as food, clothes and variety of experiment equipment are unloaded, the spacecraft will be loaded with waste materials, including used experiment equipment or clothes. After this process is completed, the HTV will separate from the ISS and re-enter the atmosphere and burn up either over the Pacific Ocean or Indian Ocean.

          According to Jaxa, the HTV technical demonstration vehicle was successfully launched on September 11, 2009 from the Tanegashima Space Centre. The test flight was a super success encouraging the Jap space fraternity to go in for the operational flight in Jan 2011.

         Assuming that the mission is a success, Jaxa plans to launch either one or two HTVs annually to ferry supplies to the ISS. The flight assumes significance in the context of Nasa phasing out the space shuttles next year.

         Keeping this in view do not be surprised if more countries join to operate such vehicles to the space station.


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