On Aug. 24, the Japanese space agency cargo ship HTV-5 — a.k.a. Kounotori, or “White Stork” — docked at the International Space Station in a resupply mission officials say will keep its six-member crew in food, drink and other necessary materials through year’s end.
Five days after the spacecraft’s textbook launch from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center, left, the unmanned HTV-5 reached docking position on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module at about 6:28 a.m. EDT.
A few hours later, Expedition 44 Flight Engineers Kimiya Yui of JAXA and Kjell Lindgren of NASA operated the station’s robotic arm to grab the 12-ton spacecraft and berth it on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module, where it will remain for five weeks. Flight Engineer Scott Kelly of NASA monitored HTV-5 systems during the docking and parking.
The White Stork carried more than 9,500 pounds of water, spare parts, and materials for scientific and commercial experiments, including a dozen lab mice and a supply of Japanese whiskey from Suntory. The Tokyo brewer wants to test the effects of zero gravity on the aging process. (text continues)
As for the mice, each have their own Mouse Habitat Unit designed to allow trials involving the effect of two kinds of gravity. One MHU setting mimics Earth’s gravity, and the other creates a microgravity that will allow the mice to free-float.
“Space is the only one environment where accelerated changes of aging such as bone loss, muscle atrophy and immunological deterioration can be observed,” JAXA said.
The multinational ISS also received supplies from an unpiloted Russian cargo ship that docked July 5.
The two successful missions followed a failed resupply attempt by SpaceX, whose unmanned cargo craft disintegrated soon after launch June 28.
SpaceX said it apears that a vendor-made helium tank strut failed, setting off a catastrophic chain reaction. But the Hawthorne, Calif.-based rocket company — conducting a probe into the mishap, with supervision by NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration — has yet to issue a final finding.
JAXA worked with Mitsubishi on the design and construction of the rocket used to launch the HTV5.