Japanese spacecraft lifts off with ISS supplies on board
The ISS crew won’t have to worry about running out of supplies this holiday season. Japan’s space agency loaded its ship called Kounotori 6 with 4.5 tons of food, water, spare parts and experimental hardware before sending it off to the ISS on top of an H-IIB rocket. Over a week ago, the Russian spacecraft that was supposed to ferry everything astronauts need to the orbiting lab burned up a few minutes into its journey. It’s still unclear why the spacecraft disintegrated, but it apparently has something to do with the Soyuz rocket’s third stage.
While the crew was never exactly in danger of running out of food and water, the cargo includes some very important parts: six new lithium-ion batteries and adapter plates for the station’s solar arrays. The astronauts are scheduled to do a series of spacewalks, starting in January, to replace the arrays’ old nickel-hydrogen batteries. Kounotori (or “white stork”) 6 will reach the ISS on December 13th, and as alway, will be caught and reeled in by the station’s robotic Canadarm2.