Japan has successfully launched the HTV-9 International Space Station (ISS) resupply mission. The spacecraft is expected to rendezvous with the space station on Monday, May 25 at 12:15 UTC.
The HTV-9 cargo spacecraft was launched aboard an H-IIB rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan at 17:31 UTC on May 20. Following a successful launch, the spacecraft was deployed from the rocket’s upper stage to begin its pursuit of the ISS.
Once the spacecraft has rendezvoused with the ISS, Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA will use the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture the 12-ton HTV-9 spacecraft. Cassidy will perform this operation from the station’s cupola module with the assistance of Russian Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos.
Aboard the HTV-9 spacecraft is four tons of supplies, water, spare parts, and “experiment hardware” for the station and its crew. This includes six new lithium-ion batteries needed to complete the station’s electrical system upgrade, an experimental telescope that could enable microsatellite imaging of Earth at less than one meter of resolution, and a microscope capable of fluorescence live imaging of biological samples aboard the station.
The HTV-9 mission marks the retirement of both the HTV spacecraft and the H-IIB rocket. The pair will be replaced by the upgraded HTVX spacecraft and H-III rocket which are currently being developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and JAXA, Japan’s national space agency. The H-III rocket is expected to make its maiden launch as early as this year while the HTVX spacecraft is likely to make its debut in 2022.