Japan and Support of the International Space Station

Previously, we looked at the Europeans Space Agency (ESA) and their ATV program, which is preparing to send their resupply spacecraft, Johannes Kepler, to the International Space Station on 15 February.

Now, we look at the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the recently completed launch and capture of the Kounotori spacecraft.

HTV-2 "Kounotori"
Image Credit: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

The external exposed cargo includes a Flex Hose Rotary Coupler and Cargo Transport Container. These spare parts will be transferred to External Logistics Carrier 4 after it is installed during the Discovery STS-133 mission.

The pressurized cargo space is carrying 2,928 kilograms of supplies and equipment:

  • 630 kilograms of crew provisions
  • 1,626 kilograms of research equipment and supplies
  • 609 kilograms) of station hardware
  • 49 kilograms of computers and supplies
  • 14 kilograms of spacewalking equipment and supplies

Among the new research equipment will be the Japanese Kobairo gradient heating furnace for generating high-quality crystals from melting materials, an Amine Swingbed technology demonstration that will look at ways to revitalize the air on space vehicles, and the International Space Station Agricultural Camera, which will take frequent images, in visible and infrared light, of vegetated areas on the Earth.

Canadarm2 Captures HTV2
Image Credit: NASA

Hatch Open
Removing cargo through the hatch on HTV2
Image Credit: JAXA

ATV-2 Johannes Kepler

Keeping the International Space Station (ISS) supplied will become an increasing challenge with the retirement of the US Space Shuttle in 2011. This is the first in a series to look at how the ISS will be serviced for the next five or six years.

The Japanese were schedule to launch their second H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-2) resupply mission today, 20 January, but weather has caused the mission to be rescheduled for a possible launch on Saturday.

The Russians fly their Progress spacecraft on resupply missions, and the next one is scheduled for 28 January.

Johannes Kepler ATV-2
ATV-2 Johannes Kepler
Image Credit:
European Space Agency (ESA)

The European Space Agency (ESA) has flown their Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-1 or Jules Verne) to the ISS once before on 9 March 2008, and their next launch is coming up on 15 February 2011.

On the commercial side, Space X has successfully orbited their Dragon spacecraft and returned to Earth. Their next test flight is penciled in for July and the first resupply mission is penciled in for December.

And Orbital Sciences Corporation has their first cargo delivery test of its Cygnus spacecraft scheduled for December 2011.

That summarizes the partners working to support the International Space Station.

Here is a more detailed look at the European Space Agency’s ATV system.

The 20 ton Johannes Kepler ATV has a cargo capacity of up to 7 metric tons. The composition of this load can vary depending on the mission:

  • 1.5 to 5.5 metric tons of freight and supplies (food, research instruments, tools, etc.)
  • up to 840 kilograms of drinking water
  • up to 100 kilograms of gases (air, oxygen and nitrogen)
  • up to four metric tons of fuel for orbit correction and up to 860 kilograms of propellant to refuel the space station.

The spacecraft is compose of two main sections. The first is the ATV Service Module (below, left), which is not pressurized, includes propulsion systems, electrical power, computers, communications and most of the avionics. The ATV uses four main engines and 28 small thrusters to control the navigation of the spacecraft. Four solar panels are deployed after launch and supply 4800 Watts of power to the batteries and the electrical systems.

The second component is the Integrated Cargo Carrier (below, right). The large section in the front is pressurized and comprises about 90% of the cargo volume. It handles all the dry cargo, including the racks on each side. The inhabitants of the International Space Station access this area through the hatch in the Russian docking system.

Service Module
ATV Service Module & Four Main Engines
Image Credit: ESA

Service Module
Cutaway of ATV Cargo Carrier
Image Credit: ESA

The Equipped External Bay of the Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC) holds 22 spherical tanks of different sizes and colors (below, left). These tanks are used to re-supply the Station with propellant for the International Space Station propulsion system, various gases (air, oxygen, and nitrogen) and water for the crew.

The contents of these tanks are delivered to the Station through dedicated connections, or through manually operated hoses.

Service Module
ATV Liquid Resupply Tanks
Image Credit: ESA

Docking Module
Russian Docking Module
Image Credit: ESA

The ATV uses the Russian-made docking equipment sensors to perform the approach and docking sequence (above, right). The procedure is the same as with the Soyuz manned capsules and the Progress resupply spacecraft.

The Russian docking system enables physical, electrical and propellant connections with the Station. Access to the ICC is through the Russian hatch.

Once the ATV is securely docked, the crew can enter the cargo section and remove the payload, which usually includes maintenance supplies, science hardware, parcels of fresh food, mail and family tapes or DVDs.

NSS Director Stan Rosen on The Space Show

You can hear NSS Director Dr. Stan Rosen as a guest on The Space Show (Internet radio program December 26, 2010) speaking about using space to improve life on Earth, and revolutionary space applications:

Legislative Blitz in Washington Feb. 27 – Mar. 1

From February 27–March 1, 2011, the National Space Society (NSS) and the Space Exploration Alliance (SEA) will be holding the annual Legislative Blitz in Washington, D.C. The 2011 Blitz comes at a crucial moment. In September 2010, Congress passed the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. It is now time for Congress to enact legislation that appropriates the required funding in compliance with the Authorization Act.

In the current economic climate, however, it is uncertain which path our nation’s leaders will now take. More than ever before, it is absolutely critical that the voices of the space advocacy community be heard in the debate over the future of our nation’s space program.

Come join space advocates from around the country to let Congress know that there is strong constituent support for an ambitious space program. Please REGISTER here for the Legislative Blitz. For more information, please contact Rick Zucker at rick.zucker@nss.org or 508-651-9936.

NASA Space Technology Research Fellowships

NASA is seeking applications from graduate students for the agency’s new Space Technology Research Fellowships. Applications are being accepted from accredited U.S. universities on behalf of graduate students interested in performing space technology research beginning in fall of 2011.

The Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT) is interested in attracting graduate students that are committed to developing disruptive technologies for the aerospace sector and to being part of NASA’s technological future by working on high-priority technologies to sustainably explore space, and who are interested in pursuing NASA’s Grand Challenges. The Space Technology Grand Challenges are an open call for cutting-edge technological solutions that solve important space-related problems, radically improve existing capabilities or deliver new space capabilities altogether. The challenges are centered on three key themes: (1) Expand human presence in space, (2) Manage in-space resources, and (3) Enable transformational space exploration and scientific discovery

This is a real opportunity to further our shared goals and help make the future we wish to see come to pass. The deadline for submitting fellowship proposals is Feb. 23.

Information on the fellowships, including how to submit applications, is available at: http://www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/early_stage_innovation/grants/NSTRF.html.

Are you in graduate school or hope to be this fall and are looking for research ideas? The National Space Society website and access to our leadership team can be invaluable resources. Contact gary.barnhard@nss.org or 202-429-1600 for more information.