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Unmanned JAXA spaceship arrives with supplies, Christmas gifts at ISS

Kyodo, AP

Japan’s unmanned cargo spaceship loaded with supplies docked at the International Space Station at an altitude of about 400 km early Wednesday, the country’s space agency said.

The Kounotori 6 docked at 3:24 a.m. Japan time after astronauts at the ISS caught the cargo transporter with a robotic arm. An H-IIB rocket carrying the cargo spaceship blasted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture on Friday.

After the launch, the Kounotori 6 was controlled by the Tsukuba Space Center of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency in Ibaraki Prefecture, JAXA said.

The cargo spaceship was carrying 5.9 tons of supplies including food, drinking water and other daily necessities for astronauts aboard the ISS, seven ultrasmall satellites developed by some universities and firms, and Japanese-made lithium-ion batteries for use on the space station, according to JAXA.

Christmas gifts also arrived at the International Space Station, courtesy of Japan.

A Japanese cargo ship pulled up at the orbiting lab Tuesday, four days after launching. The capsule — called Kounotori, which translates as white stork — contains nearly 5 tons of food, water, batteries and other supplies. NASA says there also are Christmas presents for the two Americans, three Russians and one Frenchman on board.

Barely two weeks ago, a Russian supply ship was destroyed shortly after liftoff. At the same time, one of NASA’s main suppliers, SpaceX, is grounded. So the Japanese delivery is especially welcome.

The astronauts need the six new lithium-ion batteries for next month’s spacewalks. They will replace the old nickel-hydrogen batteries that store energy generated by the station’s big solar panels.