Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA shared this photograph of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kounotori H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-6) as it approached the International Space Station on 12 December.
Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency successfully captured the 12-tonne spacecraft using the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Robotic ground controllers then installed it on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module. Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA monitored HTV-6 systems during the rendezvous and grapple.
The unpiloted cargo spacecraft is loaded with more than 4.5 tonnes of supplies, water, spare parts and experiment hardware for the six-person station crew. The spacecraft, named “Kounotori” – the Japanese word for white stork – launched on 9 December from the Tanegashima Space Centre in southern Japan. It also delivered six new lithium-ion batteries and adapter plates to replace nickel-hydrogen batteries.
The spacecraft was brought the Technology Education (TechEdSat-5) nanosatellite, which includes the Exo-Brake technology demonstration mission. The Exo-Brake technology is a tension-based, flexible braking device that could help bring small payloads back through Earth’s atmosphere unharmed, accurately de-orbiting through a series of adjustments to modulate drag. Exo-Brake deployment is targeted for early 2017.