Japanese H-IIB launches HTV-3 to the International Space Station

by Chris Bergin

The Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) have launched their H-IIB F3 carrier rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. Lift off was on schedule at 2:06am UTC, starting a week long flight to the International Space Station (ISS) for HTV-3 (KOUNOTORI3), delivering thousands of pounds of internal and external cargo to the Orbital Outpost.

H-IIB Launch With HTV-3:

The H-IIB launch vehicle is a two-stage rocket using liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as propellant and has four strap-on solid rocket boosters (SRB-A) powered by Polybutadiene.

The H-IIB has two liquid rocket engines (LE-7A) in the first-stage, instead of one for the H-IIA. It has four SRB-As attached to the body, while the standard version of H-IIA had two SRB-As. In addition, the H-IIB’s first-stage body has expanded to 5.2m in diameter from 4m of H-IIA.

The vehicle is extended by the total length of the first stage by 1m from that of H-IIA. At the result of such enhancement, the H-IIB requires 1.7 times more propellant than the former.

Established in 1969, the Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC) is the largest rocket-launch complex in Japan with an area of 9.7 million square meters.

It is located in the south of Kagoshima Prefecture, along the southeast coast of Tanegashima Island and is one of the word’s most beautiful launch sites.

The center is in charge of launch activities for Japanese rockets with various payloads, including the assembly of a launch vehicle, final inspections of payloads, and the loading of payloads onto the launch vehicle.

Following launch, the flight profile of the H-IIB F3 saw the vehicle pitch to a 108.5 degrees azimuth, as it flies over the Pacific Ocean. The launch vehicle then jettisoned the solid rocket boosters, payload fairing and the first stage.

After igniting the second stage engine, the H-IIB F3 inserted the HTV-3 KOUNOTORI3 into its preferred orbit.

Following the completion of its main mission of injecting its payload, the controlled re-entry test of the second stage will be performed, and the second stage will be dropped into the South Pacific Ocean.

This controlled re-entry mission is classed as a “technological development” for the safe disposal of the second stage that has completed its mission. The reverse thrust to leave the orbit will be performed by the second stage LE-5B-2 engine, using idle mode combustion – by providing propellant with a thrust of gas instead of turning on the turbo-pump.

After its insertion into LEO (Low Earth Orbit), HTV-3 will begin a week-long phasing period where its orbit will be gradually adjusted – at the same time the spacecraft itself is put through a series of post-launch/pre-docking tests – to more precisely align the craft with the ISS.

The experience gained from the HTV-1 and HTV-2 flights also laid a path for the debut arrival of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft – which followed a number of the key HTV phasing elements for its recent mission.

Preparations for HTV-3 arrival have been in work over recent days, with the ISS crew preparing the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) for its role of grabbing the Japanese vehicle for berthing on July 27.

“SSRMS Offset Grapple and System Checkouts Prior to HTV 3 Operations: The crew will performed the second of two offset grapple sessions in preparation for HTV capture.  The unique objective of this session was to allow the crew to complete an actual grapple of the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) Flight Releasable Grapple Fixture (FRGF) in the final run,” noted the rolling internal ISS updates on L2 – LINK.

“After the crew completed their session, they performed switch checkouts on both robotic workstations. The ground will perform the LEE (Latching End Effector) snare cable check, maneuver the SSRMS to a High Hover position, and complete a capture volume overlay checkout.”

The 10 ton JAXA cargo vehicle is capable of supplying a total of six tons of pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the ISS at an altitude of 407 km. Pressurized cargo can be received at the rack level (an International Standard Payload Rack (ISPR)) or sub-rack level; such as Cargo Transfer Bags (CTBs).

Sub-rack level cargo is integrated into HTV resupply racks (HRRs). All HRRs and ISPR equivalents are integrated into the HTV Pressurized Logistics Carrier (PLC). Unpressurized cargo is integrated onto an exposed pallet and, subsequently, into the HTV Unpressurized Logistics Carrier (UPLC).

Click here for HTV News Articles: http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/tag/htv/

With the usual manifest of clothes, food and fuel, HTV-3 will will kick off an intense period of internal cargo transfers.

External robotics will also be involved, as the HTV-3 Exposed Pallet (EP) is transferred to the Japanese Exposed Facility (JEF), whereupon the Japanese Experiment Module Remote Manipulator System (JEM RMS) will remove the Multi-mission Consolidated Equipment (MCE) payload from the EP and install it onto the JEF.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator (SPDM) “Dextre” will remove the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) testbed from the EP and install it onto the ExPrESS Logistics Carrier-3 (ELC-3). The empty EP will then be transferred back to HTV-3.

HTV-3 is also carrying a unique payload, as a remote-controlled Earth-observing camera system called ISERV (International Space Station SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System) hitches a ride to the ISS. Once installed, the system will be directed by researchers on the ground to acquire imagery of specific areas of the globe for disaster analysis and environmental studies.

ISERV will be installed in the Window Observational Research Facility (WORF) in the station’s Destiny laboratory. The system is intended to help scientists gain operational experience and expertise and inform the design of a more capable system in the future. Ideally, a future operational system will be able to monitor disasters on Earth.

“ISERV came about because officials in developing countries are sometimes unable to acquire the images they need to address environmental threats and provide post-disaster assessments,” said Nancy Searby, capacity building program manager for the SERVIR program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

“The SERVIR team approached NASA’s ISS and Earth Science Applied Sciences Program with the concept of acquiring the needed imagery from the ISS. The ISERV test bed payload is a result of that collaboration.”

The ISERV system, based on a modified commercial telescope and driven by custom software, will use the Earth-facing Destiny science window to obtain images of Earth’s surface. It will then transmit the data to scientists on the ground.

A further overview article will follow next Friday.

(Images via L2, JAXA and NASA).

(NSF and L2 are providing full high level space flight coverage, available no where else on the internet, from Orion and SLS to ISS and COTS/CRS/CCDEV, to European, Japanese and Russian vehicles). 

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