Ja­pan launches much-needed sup­plies to space sta­tion

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

A Ja­panese cap­sule blasted off with much-needed sup­plies for the International Space Sta­tion on Fri­day, a week af­ter a Rus­sian ship­ment was de­stroyed shortly af­ter liftoff. The Rus­sian rocket ac­ci­dent and the ground­ing of one of NASA’s com­mer­cial sup­pli­ers make this de­liv­ery all the more ur­gent. The space­craft should ar­rive at the sta­tion Tues­day. “Have a safe flight,” French as­tro­naut Thomas Pes­quet said in a tweet from the space sta­tion. “Look­ing for­ward to your ar­rival!”

The cap­sule - called Kouno­tori, or white stork - con­tains nearly 5 tons of food, water and other sup­plies, in­clud­ing six new lithium-ion bat­ter­ies for the sta­tion’s so­lar power sys­tem. Astro­nauts will con­duct space­walks next month to re­place the old nickel-hy­dro­gen bat­ter­ies that store en­ergy gen­er­ated by the sta­tion’s big so­lar pan­els. This is Ja­pan’s sixth ship­ment to the 250-mile­high out­post, cur­rently home to Pes­quet, two Amer­i­cans and three Rus­sians. It launched from Tane­gashima Space Cen­ter in south­ern Ja­pan.

Launches by SpaceX, mean­while, have been on hold since a Septem­ber rocket ex­plo­sion on the pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The he­lium pres­sur­iza­tion sys­tem in the rocket’s up­per stage was breached, re­sult­ing in a mas­sive fire­ball. The com­pany hopes to re­sume flights next month from South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. Irid­ium Com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lites will be aboard that ini­tial launch. A space sta­tion sup­ply run is sup­posed to fol­low a few weeks later from Cape Canaveral.

In a tele­vised interview from the space sta­tion fol­low­ing Fri­day’s launch, NASA as­tro­naut Peggy Whit­son said there are al­ready enough sup­plies to last un­til spring. The Ja­panese ship­ment will stretch that out even fur­ther. The Rus­sians lost a space­suit in the Dec 1 launch ac­ci­dent, among many other items, she noted. “Space­flight’s not an easy thing,” Whit­son said. “We just have to keep press­ing our­selves to do the right thing, make sure we’re do­ing all the right tests ... so that we don’t have these prob­lems.”—AP


JA­PAN: In this photo taken on De­cem­ber 9, 2016, Ja­pan’s H-IIB rocket launches from the Tane­gashima Space Cen­ter in Tane­gashima is­land, Kagoshima pre­fec­ture.

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