Cargo Spacecraft Docks At Space Station

Cargo spacecraft docks at space station

An unmanned Japanese cargo spacecraft has docked at the International Space Station.

Kounotori 8 was launched from Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture on September 25th.

After nearing the space station in orbit at an altitude of around 400 kilometers, the cargo spacecraft was caught by a robot arm operated by an astronaut. Docking took place shortly before 3 AM on Sunday Japan Time.

About 40 staff members were in the control room of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, in Ibaraki Prefecture's Tsukuba City.

They relayed Kounotori's data to the US space agency NASA, and applauded as the cargo spacecraft was caught by the robot arm.

Kounotori 8 measures 10 meters long and 4.4 meters in diameter. Its cargo of about 5.3 tons includes water and food for the astronauts staying on the ISS, as well as batteries for power supply and university-developed satellites.

The first Kounotori was launched 10 years ago. This is the eighth consecutive unmanned delivery of cargo to the International Space Station.

Hirohiko Uematsu, director of JAXA's HTV Technology Center, said teething problems created difficulties in operating the cargo spacecraft 10 years ago, but experience has led to major improvements.

He added that staff at the center are now developing a successor to the Kounotori line of spacecraft, and they believe they now have the knowledge base to make it a success.