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Success: Robotic Japanese spaceship docks with space station (+video)

A robotic Japanese spacecraft carrying food, equipment, and student science experiments for the International Space Station successfully docked with the orbital outpost.

By Clara / July 27, 2012

Japan's HTV 3 unmanned cargo spacecraft approaches the International Space Station July 27, 2012 to deliver food, supplies and science experiments.



The third in a series of robotic Japanese spaceships has safely arrived at the International Space Station today (July 27), bearing a delivery of food, equipment and student science experiments for the orbital outpost.

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A sped up timelapse video of the Japanese HTV-3 Cargo Spacecraft as it approached the International Space Station Friday.

The unmanned, school bus-size H-2 Transfer Vehicle-3 (HTV-3), also called Kounotori 3 ("White Stork" in Japanese), flew to about 40 feet (12 meters) away from the ISS, where it was grabbed at 8:23 a.m. ET (1223 GMT) by the space station's 58-foot long (18 m) robotic arm, which was controlled from inside by astronauts Joe Acaba of NASA and Aki Hoshide of JAXA (the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency).

Using the Canadarm2 robotic arm, Acaba and Hoshide maneuvered Kounotori 3 to the Earth-facing docking port on the space station's Harmony node at 10:34 a.m. ET (1434 GMT).

"I think we couldn’t have had a better day and we're looking forward to a great HTV mission," Capcom Cady Coleman told the astronauts from Mission Control in Houston.

"You guys were great, thanks a lot for helping us out," Acaba replied. "Thanks a lot for all the food."

Today's arrival follows the failed docking attempt on Monday (July 23) of an unmanned Russian Progress spacecraft. The Progress 47 craft was testing a new rendezvous system, which apparently failed to work as planned. The vehicle, which had already been at the space station, had undocked in order to test the new system in a re-docking. Russia plans to try again on Sunday (July 29) to dock the Progress 47.

Kounotori launched atop a Japanese H-2B rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan on July 20. It is the third such vehicle launched from Japan, following the flights of HTVs 1 and 2 in September 2009 and January 2011, respectively. [Photos: Japan Launches 3rd Robotic Supply Ship to Space Station]

The spaceship is loaded with 4 tons (3,600 kg) of cargo, including care packages with food, clothing and other items for the space station's crew. The vehicle, which is 33 feet (10 m) long and 13 feet (4 m) wide, is also carrying a camera called the ISERV (International Space Station SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System).

The camera is to be installed on the station, for use by ground-based scientists who can manipulate it via remote control. The system is intended for studies of natural disaster sites and environmental issues on Earth.

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