National / Science & Health

Japan launches rocket carrying vessel for International Space Station

Kyodo

Japan launched a rocket on Wednesday carrying an unmanned spacecraft bound for the International Space Station, after a fire thwarted its planned launch earlier this month.

The Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.’s H-IIB rocket carrying the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s supply vessel Kounotori8 was launched at 1:05 a.m. from Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, and entered its scheduled orbit about 15 minutes later.

The vessel, named using the Japanese word for “white stork,” will deliver about 5.3 tons of supplies to astronauts at the International Space Station, including food and water as well as batteries and devices needed for experiments, according to the space agency.

The vessel is expected to reach the ISS on Saturday.

Mitsubishi Heavy had put off the originally scheduled launch, on Sept. 11, after a fire was detected at the launch pad.

A high concentration of liquid oxygen, used as rocket engine coolant, was determined to have caused the fire that broke out about three hours before the intended launch, an official close to the matter has said.

The company had planned to launch the rocket Tuesday, but postponed again until Wednesday to prevent the separated stage of the rocket from close proximity to Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft, which was set to be launched the same day.

The roughly two-week delay did not affect operations at the ISS as it stores adequate provisions for such circumstances.

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