A pair of Expedition 57 astronauts trained for the release of a Japanese resupply ship Wednesday after a 41-day mission at the International Space Station. Japan’s seventh cargo ship, H-II Transfer Vehicle-7 (HTV-7), has one more mission though after it departs the orbital lab.
If all goes as planned, astronaut Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release the HTV-7, also called the Kounotori, Wednesday at 11:50 a.m. EST. Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor will back up Gerst in the cupola monitoring the vehicle and its telemetry as it slowly backs away from the space station. The two astronauts reviewed departure procedures and practiced robotics controls on a computer today. NASA TV will broadcast live the space freighter’s departure beginning at 11:30 a.m.
Kounotori was captured Sept. 27 and delivered external station batteries and hardware to be configured during a pair of upcoming spacewalks. The resupply ship also replenished the station with advanced science experiments and equipment to benefit humans on Earth and in space.
However, it has one more payload to deliver for splashdown on Earth before the vehicle burns up harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean. The HTV-7 will release a small reentry capsule packed with test cargo for retrieval by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The splashdown mission is a test of JAXA’s ability to return small payloads from space for quick delivery to researchers on Earth.
Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev worked on science and maintenance tasks throughout Monday in the orbital lab’s Russian segment. He started out researching how the space environment and solar radiation affects plasma-dust crystals. Prokopyev finished up his day photographing the condition of the Zvezda service module interior panels before disposing of obsolete hardware in the Progress 70 resupply ship.