August 05, 2013
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) expect to greet the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s HTV-4 early Aug. 9, following the unmanned cargo resupply spacecraft’s successful weekend liftoff from the Tanageshima Launch Center.
The unpiloted freighter carries a 3.6-ton cargo, including new external U.S. experiment hardware designed to add a cryogenic satellite servicing dimension to NASA’s Robotic Refueling Mission (RMM), and improve capabilities to forecast space weather conditions jeopardizing civilian as well as military communications satellites.
Aboard the ISS, NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy and Karen Nyberg will be posted at a U.S. segment control console for the Canadian Space Agency robot arm during closely coordinated rendezvous operations involving U.S. and Japanese ground controllers for a scheduled grapple at 7:29 a.m. EDT Aug. 9.
Assisted by European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano, Cassidy and Nyberg will maneuver the HTV-4 to a berthing with the U.S. segment Harmony module within 2 hr.
The Japanese space freighter launched atop a two-stage H-IIB booster from the Tanegashima Space Center on Aug. 3, at 3:48 p.m. EDT, or Aug. 4. at 4:48 a.m. local time, and climbed to orbit for separation 15 min. later. A series of Aug. 3-4 orbital maneuvers propelled the fourth of Japan’s ISS cargo deliveries since September 2009 toward a rendezvous with the 250-mi. high, six-person orbiting science lab.
The latest of the Japanese freighters carries 5,370 lb. of pressurized cargo of food, clothing, water, spare parts and experiment hardware, including a pair of low-temperature freezers for experiment specimens, and four CubeSats for deployment from Japan’s Kibo science module.
The capsule’s 1,880-lb. unpressurized cargo includes a new task board and On Orbit Transfer Cage for the Goddard Space Flight Center-developed RMM. When paired with a second task board and a borescope designed for remote exams of satellite interiors headed for a 2014 ISS delivery, NASA collaborators intend to experiment with robotic techniques for cryogenic spacecraft servicing.
The RMM, launched aboard NASA’s final shuttle mission in 2011 and subsequently positioned on the station’s solar power truss, successfully demonstrated capabilities to robotically refuel aging satellites earlier this year. The full set of 2012-13 refueling demonstrations was carried out in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency’s two-armed Dextre, an external ISS robot.
The U.S. Department of Defense’s Space Test Program H4 payload, also aboard the HTV-4, includes eight military and civilian experiments. The platform, also destined for a robotic relocation on the solar power truss, includes three U.S. Naval Research Lab payloads to evaluate and communicate changing space weather conditions to widely distributed sensor arrays at sea and on land.