— Live updates —
NASA TV coverage of rendezvous and berthing is expected to begin at 10:30 UTC Sept. 27, 2018.
— Mission overview —
Following launch, the Japanese-built Kounotori 7 spacecraft is expected to take several days to rendezvous with the International Space Station. The autonomous spacecraft is manifested with 6,200 kilograms of cargo, including lithium-ion batteries that will be used to replace some of the outpost's existing nickel-hydrogen batteries.
Rendezvous is expected to occur Sept. 27, 2018, with capture expected at around 11:54 UTC. A problem found during the first launch attempt on Sept. 14 prompted an investigation that was expected to take at least a week. The spacecraft finally launched atop an H-2B rocket at 17:52 UTC Sept. 22 from the Japan Aerospace Agency’s Tanegashima Space Center on the island of Tanegashima located about 40 kilometers south of Kyushu, the southernmost of the four main islands of the Japanese archipelago.
Once at the outpost, the cargo spacecraft will maneuver itself to just 10 meters below the Destiny laboratory. Then the 17.6-meter Canadarm2 will be used to grab the vehicle and move it to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module.
There it will remain attached for about two months. During that time, the lithium-ion batteries in the Kounotori's unpressurized section will be removed and installed by astronauts on the outpost's 110-meter integrated truss structure, replacing older nickel-hydrogen batteries.
The old batteries will be placed in the spacecraft's unpressurized compartment for disposal in the northwestern Pacific Ocean at the end of Kounotori 7's mission. At least one more Kounotori flight will be required to fully replace the outpost's batteries, a process that started during the Kounotori 6 mission in early 2017.
— Manifest —
Inside the Pressurized Logistics Module, Kounotori 7 is carrying 4,300 kilograms. In addition to food and other crew supplies, this includes two U.S. experiment racks (EXPRESS Racks 9B and 10B), a U.S. Life Sciences Glovebox (which will be the second to be delivered to the ISS) and the European Space Agency-developed Life Support Rack.
Additionally, a device called HTV Small Re-entry Capsule, abbreviated HSRC, will also be aboard. According to JAXA, it is designed to demonstrate reentry technology and cargo recovery functions from the ISS. Currently, the only vehicles that can return any cargo from the space station are the crewed Russian Soyuz spacecraft (which offers minimal down-mass capability) and SpaceX’s cargo Dragon spacecraft (which offers a large amount of down-mass capability).
HSRC is inside Kounotori 7 and will be attached to the hatch of the Pressurized Logistics Carrier by the space station crew before the spacecraft is unberthed. It will separate from vehicle after a deorbit burn and re-enter the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean near Japan, descend by parachute and be recovered after splashdown, according to JAXA.
Also inside the pressurized compartment is the Loop Heat Pipe Radiator, which is a technology demonstration system that is expected to test high-efficiency heat rejection technology. At some point after Kounotori 7 berth’s, the radiator experiment will be moved outside the space station via the Kibo module’s experiment airlock and the Japanese robotic arm will move it into position.
Finally, Kounotori 7 is bringing additional CubeSats to the ISS for deployment. According to JAXA, this will involve the 10th CubeSat deployment using the JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer since 2012.
According to JAXA, among the CubeSats being delivered are: SPATIUM-I, which will demonstrate electron density measurement, 3D mapping of the ionosphere and ultra-small atomic clock technology; RSP-00, which will demonstrate technology for imaging with an onboard camera and high-speed data transmission; and STARS-Me, which will demonstrate a small-scale space elevator using two satellites and a climber.
Inside the Unpressurized Logistic Carrier is the six lithium-ion batteries to be used to replace some of the existing nickel-hydrogen batteries on the exterior of the outpost. This is a continuation of the process that began with the Kounotori 6 mission in early 2017.
Once at the station, at least two spacewalks by astronauts will be required to replace the old hardware with the new upgrades.
Some of the old batteries will be placed in the spacecraft's unpressurized compartment for disposal in the northwestern Pacific Ocean at the end of Kounotori 7's mission, expected around mid-November 2018. At least one more Kounotori flight will be required to fully replace the outpost's batteries.