Japan's first unmanned space freighter was launched today, stocked with cargo and equipment for the International Space Station. The H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) blasted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan at 1:01 pm EDT (17:03 GMT) atop an H-2B rocket, which was also making a maiden flight. The spacecraft's …
I don't suppose there is any way one G Brown could be persuaded to volunteer for the return mission on a future flight (next week maybe if not sooner?) to see whether the rumours about being turned into charcoal are true? After all, surely this is just conjecture and like man landing on the moon we don't know it'll actually happen.
Not only that...
But it docks to the US segment with the larger hatches, instead of the Russian segment like Progress & ATV. This means it can bring aboard standard equipment racks, which previously only the Shuttle could do. This is rather important because this is a standard form factor like server room racks, and lots of things like life support & recycling equipment is in that form factor.
One benefit to the berthing instead of docking is it doesn't use an expensive, heavy, and touchy automated docking system. KURS for Progress costs the Russians so much that they actually pull off to be reused. ESA wasted a ton of euros developing and testing their weird laser-based thing for ATV too, and that money could have gone to a lot better things. People already know the arm works.
Another benefit is berthing mostly isn't on a collision course, so if things go pear-shaped, it drifts on by instead of crashing into the station like that one Progress crashed into MIR.
As usual, the Japanese do it right.
"13:01 EDT (17:03 GMT)"
As far as I am aware time zones operate in increments of one hour, with the exception of some special ones which are half-an-hour. How is it that New York is 2 minutes behind the rest of the world?
Maybe there's something I don't know about timezones, and I'm more than willing to be corrected, but how does 1:01pm EDT correspond to 5:03pm GMT? Where does the spare 2 minutes come from?
Paris, cos, well, I'd spend 2 minutes with her, given the opportunity...
@Not only that...
"it doesn't use an expensive, heavy, and touchy automated docking system"
But it still uses an expensive and touchy system to park itself 10m or so from the ISS. And it will still require a heavy docking system to actually dock with the ISS.
"to see whether the rumours about being turned into charcoal are true?"
It's no rumour. HTV, ATV and their ilk are designed to burnup and incinerate their rubbish as part of their flight plan.
Their are *plans* to make them survivable and hence allow cargo (including human) to be returned to earth.
This is something only available from the Shuttle and the Russians at present and its a key part of being able to do a full end to end eart-to-orbit-to-earth mission. A fact the NASA COTS program is also attempting to address.
Sometimes I feel like our space programs are going back in time. What about a modern, reusable, efficient spacecraft, all this is just too expensive and short term while not advancing the space program.
These days its not about finding the most elegant and uptodate solution to a problem, its all about cost and half measures. Unless NASA (or whoever) can develop a heavy lifter thats reusable, safe and cost effective (what the shuttle should have been if it had proper funding) our space based efforts are never going to get past sticking a few objects/people into orbit for limited periods of time.
reuseable does not necessarily equal better
In case you missed it in the title, reuseable does not necessarily equal better. I'm not saying reusable can't be better, I'm just saying it's not necessarily better. We don't go around collecting burnt fireworks and reconditioning them.
@Gene Cash - Server racks
I worked for many years on the Station project, and the equipment racks are not just like server racks, thay actually are designed on the same 19 inch size as standard equipment racks are. The refrigerator-sized racks are two 19 inch stacks side by side, with all the various utility connections at the "bottom". Four racks go on each of the four sides of a module, and the utility runs go lengthwise along the module in the corners.
When it comes time to replace experiments, you just unplug an entire rack and float it out the hatch.