Resupply from Four Corners of Globe
Resupply from Four Corners of Globe

A quick succession of international space supply trucks will arrive on the International Space Station’s loading docks early in 2011, dropping off more than 11 tons (10,000 kilograms) of food, computers, medical equipment and supplies, spare parts and experiment gear – not to mention the necessities of everyday human life in orbit.
Demonstrating a multinational commitment to supporting life, work and research on the station at the start of its second decade, space trucks from Japan, Europe and Russia will launch to the station in January and February, followed quickly by the space shuttle Discovery.

Second Japanese Cargo Ship

The Kounotori2, or “white stork,” H-II Transfer Vehicle 2 (HTV2) developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), will make the system’s second delivery to the station after planned launch from Tanegashima, Japan, on Jan. 22. On its heels will be the 41st Russian Progress vehicle, set to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on Jan. 28, and the second European Space Agency’s (ESA) Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), Johannes Kepler, set to launch from a launch pad near Kourou, French Guiana, on Feb. 15.

HTV2 is a 33-foot-long, 13-foot-diameter (10 meter by 4 meter) unmanned cargo transfer spacecraft capable of delivering both internal and external supplies and hardware to the station. The HTV will be launched from the Tanegashima Space Center aboard an H-IIB launch vehicle with 4.2 tons (3,814 kilograms) of supplies. When HTV2 approaches the station on Jan. 27, Expedition 26 astronauts Cady Coleman, Scott Kelly and Paolo Nespoli will use the station’s robotic arm, known as “Canadarm2,” to grapple and berth it to the Earth-facing port on the Harmony.

After equalizing pressures between the cargo craft and the station, the crew will open hatches and begin removing supplies ranging from food and clothing for the astronauts to new computers and research equipment and supplies. Among the new research equipment will be the Japanese Kobairo gradient hearing furnace for generating high-quality crystals from melting materials, an Amine Swingbed technology demonstration that will look at ways to revitalize the air on space vehicles, and the International Space Station Agricultural Camera, which will take frequent images, in visible and infrared light, of vegetated areas on the Earth.

Aside from the space shuttle, the HTV is the only vehicle capable of delivering external cargo to the station. The cargo is mounted to an exposed pallet that sits within the HTV’s unpressurized section.

Altogether, the HTV2 vehicle and cargo will weigh 35,408 pounds (16,061 kilograms). The total amount of external, unpressurized cargo being delivered is 2,043 pounds (927 kilograms). About 1,990 pounds (902 kilograms) of the external cargo is NASA cargo, and about 53 pounds (24 kilograms) is Canadian Space Agency cargo.

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