Typhoon near Guam prompts delay of Kounotori 7 cargo flight to ISS
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was expected to send the unpiloted Kounotori 7 cargo freighter toward the International Space Station on Sept. 10, 2018. However, inclement weather conditions expected near a downrange tracking station forced the Japanese space agency to postpone the flight.
While a new launch date has not yet been set, the delay may cause a cascade of postponements. If the flight is only postponed by a couple days, Kounotori 7 could rendezvous with the ISS as early as Sept. 16 with its 13,000 pounds (6,000 kilograms) of crew supplies, experiments and hardware.
That would leave just four days for ground-based robotics teams, using the Canadarm2 and Dextre remote manipulators, to pre-position the six lithium-ion batteries being brought to the outpost inside the spacecraft’s Unpressurized Logistics Module before U.S. EVA-52 is set to begin. Expedition 56 astronauts Drew Feustel of NASA and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency are planning to perform a 6.5-hour-long spacewalk Sept. 20 that involves swapping out 12 of the station’s old nickel-hydrogen batteries with the new lithium-ion units.
A second spacewalk, to be performed by Gerst and NASA’s Ricky Arnold, is planned for Sept. 26, which would involve finishing the work of swapping the batteries. The old units will placed in the same exposed pallet that was used to transport the lithium-ion batteries. They will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere with the spacecraft at the end of its mission.
The station’s exterior batteries are designed to store power produced from the outpost’s giant 240-feet (73-meter) solar array wings. In December 2016, the Kounotori 6 mission also brought six lithium-ion batteries to the outpost. Two spacewalks in January 2017 were required to swap and install them.
While there is likely wiggle room in the schedule, Feustel and Arnold, with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, are set to leave the outpost Oct. 4, 2018, inside their Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft.
When JAXA does decide on a new launch time, the vehicle, perched atop its 186-foot (56.6-meter) tall H-IIB carrier rocket, will be rolled out to the pad at Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan about 12 hours before liftoff. Tanegashima is located about 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) northwest of Guam.
The rocket is expected to deliver Kounotori 7 into an initial orbit some 10 minutes after liftoff to begin a several-day rendezvous profile. The spacecraft is expected to be berthed to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module and remain at the outpost for about two months. It’s departure is planned for mid-November.
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity.