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Japan Cargo Ship Departs, U.S. Resupply Rocket Preps for Launch

Japan's HTV-8 resupply ship before release from the Canadarm2
Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm as the International Space Station flies into an orbital sunrise.

A U.S. cargo craft is poised to resupply the International Space Station just days after a Japanese space freighter departed the orbiting lab Friday afternoon. Meanwhile, the Expedition 61 crew today continued an array of microgravity research and spacewalk preparations.

Flight Engineer Christina Koch with back-up support from NASA astronaut Jessica Meir used the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Japan’s HTV-8 cargo spacecraft at 1:21 p.m. EDT today. The cargo craft spent five weeks attached to the orbiting lab following a Sept. 24 launch from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan.

HTV-8 delivered some five tons of supplies and experiments to the orbital complex as well as new lithium-ion batteries. The batteries were installed in the electronics system of the far port truss of the complex replacing older nickel-hydrogen batteries and upgrading the station’s power supply.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship sits atop an Antares rocket loaded with 8,200 pounds of science experiments and station hardware. Liftoff will take place on Saturday at 9:59 a.m. EDT from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Meir and Koch will be in the cupola Monday morning awaiting the arrival of Cygnus. Meir will command the Canadarm2 to reach out and grapple Cygnus at 4:10 a.m. EST. Koch will back up Meir as astronaut Andrew Morgan of NASA monitors Cygnus’ approach and rendezvous.

Morgan and Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) are also getting up to speed with repair techniques for an external cosmic particle detector.  The duo is reviewing procedures to replace the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer’s (AMS) thermal control system during a series of spacewalks tentatively planned for this month. The AMS measures the charge, velocity and mass of cosmic rays in its search for evidence of dark matter and anti-matter.

Morgan also watered plants and set up biology hardware that will house rodents shipped aboard Cygnus. Parmitano monitored the free-flying Astrobee robotic assistant testing its autonomous ability to perform tasks inside the space station’s Kibo laboratory module.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka focused on Russian spacecraft work and science in their segment of the space station. The duo charged Soyuz crew ship batteries and packed a Progress cargo craft. Skvortsov then studied how pain adjusts to microgravity while Skripochka moved on to plumbing tasks.

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