A little while ago the HTV-8 “Kounotori” spacecraft was captured by the International Space Station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm, operated by Christina Koch with the assistance of Andrew Morgan. The Japanese space cargo ship, which blasted off last Tuesday, carries a huge amount of supplies and experiments. After its capture, the HTV-8 got slowly moved to its berthing location on the Harmony module, where it was safely installed.
Tomorrow the crew of the International Space Station will open the hatch of the HTV-8 spacecraft and start unloading its cargo. Like other cargo spacecraft that can’t land, after its departure it will be used to eliminate hardware that failed or however old and various wastes, which will disintegrate with the spacecraft reentering the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Kounotori will remain docked with the International Space Station for about one month but the date is approximate and can be changed if other activities will take priority. The cargo spacecraft arrived two weeks late and this will have possible consequences on the timeline for the installation of the new lithium ion batteries on board. Some spacewalks are needed for the installation and are scheduled to begin in October, after three crew members come back to Earth.
According to the Japanese space agency JAXA’s plans, the HTV-8 space freighter is the penultimate of this type of spacecraft. A new more advanced version, called HTV-X, is under development. At the moment the HTV-9 space cargo mission is scheduled for May 2020. The first HTV-X cargo mission could take place in 2022 but a lot depends on any problems that might emerge during its development.
The HTV-X cargo spacecraft should be launched on an H3 carrier rocket, also under development. The first launch of this rocket should take place in 2020 in the version without side boosters and in 2021 in the version with side boosters. The version with 4 side boosters is the one that should be used to launch the HTV-X cargo spacecraft.