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H-IIB rocket carrying cargo for ISS lifts off from Tanegashima

JIJI

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on Sunday successfully launched an H-IIB rocket carrying a Konotori cargo transporter that will resupply the International Space Station.

About 15 minutes after lifting off at 4:48 a.m. from Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, the Konotori 4 entered orbit. It is expected to arrive at the ISS at an altitude of about 400 km Friday night and dock with it Saturday, JAXA says.

Once unloaded, the transporter will be filled with waste and released around Sept. 5 to burn up over the South Pacific.

The 5.4 tons of supplies includes power and communications equipment, experimental gear from the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Japanese and U.S. microsatellites, and food and water for astronauts.

Astronaut Koichi Wakata will stay aboard the ISS for six months from November to serve as its first Japanese commander. The Kotonori 4 is also bringing him a communications robot and a supersensitive camera to capture images of comet Ison, which will make its closest approach to the sun on Nov. 29.

Production and sales of the JAXA-developed H-IIB, Japan’s biggest rocket, have been transferred to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. Those of the smaller H-IIA rocket were transferred to the company in 2007.

Yoichi Kujirai, chief of aerospace operations at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. said at the center that it was the 20th successful launch for the H-IIA and H-IIB rockets.

With moves afoot to launch two satellites together to reduce costs, MHI is better situated to meet demand with the H-IIB, he said, adding that MHI will work with the government to woo other Asian and Middle Eastern customers.