Posts Tagged ‘JAXA’
It’s pretty rare that we get two magnificent new launch vehicles getting their first flight within a week of each other, but that’s what happened with the LADEE/Minotaur V launch on Sept. 7th and the SPRINT-A/Epsilon launch on Sept. 14th. Both rockets use a series of solid stages to boost their payload – the Minotaur V puts 630 kg into geosynchronous transfer orbit or, in the case of LADEE, 437 kg into trans-lunar trajectory, while the Epsilon puts 1200 kg into low Earth orbit.
The benefit to solid stages are that they are cheap and relatively non-volatile (unlike cryogenic fuels). As you’ll see in the videos, they also get going rather quickly (that is, they have a very high thrust-to-weight ratio). The downside is that they are relatively inefficient in terms of ISP, and so aren’t suited to heavy loads in the upper atmosphere/space. They are also not throttled and lack the safety features of liquid rockets, so they aren’t used for manned flights.
Without further ado, there are the spectacular videos of the launches:
And here I thought that the KOUNOTORI4 was just a normal ISS cargo delivery launch, but no! The web is abuzz with the fact that it was delivering some extra-special cargo – namely this:
That’s Kirobo – a merry little robot designed for space that can speak Japanese – including voice and speech recognition. It is going to assist the next commander of the ISS, Koichi Wakata, in experiments to demonstrate the usefulness of robots in space. NASA has been working on a less personable but more functional robot – Robonaut-2:
I think the future probably lies somewhere between Kirobo and Robonaut-2, and soon, the whole idea of walking, talking humanoid robots won’t just be science fiction anymore (at least in low-gravity environments, where the whole walking thing is a bit easier for the robots).
Anyway, here’s the video of the rollout of the H-IIB rocket and the launch to the ISS, courtesy of SpaceVidsNet on YouTube:
KOUNOTORI4 is the fourth H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) destined for launch from the Japanese Space Agency JAXA to the International Space Station. It is an unmanned resupply vessel, but unlike the Progress or ATV, it can carry International Standard Payload Racks to the station – only the SpaceX Dragon provides an alternative for that function. Also, plans for the HTV are to make it both reusable like the Dragon, and eventually suited to carry a crew of three from the station by 2022. So this spacecraft is going to be a part of the future of manned spaceflight.
Here it is being fitted to its fairing:
The launch is currently scheduled for August 4th from the Tanegashima Space Center. The H-IIB launcher is a heavy lifter from Mitsubishi with a launch mass of 531 tons and it can manage a 19,000 kg payload to Low Earth Orbit. The HTV is 16,500 kg.
On its return, the Kounotori will be loaded with waste, deorbited, and disintegrate on reentry over the Pacific Ocean. The reusable version is scheduled for 2018.
Incidentally, the name “kou no tori” (こうのとり) means “white stork”, which is a bringer of good luck.