HTV7 Mission to Fly Experiment Recovery Capsule to International Space Station

HTV Small Re-entry Capsule (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — In the mission of HTV7 (“KOUNOTORI 7”), after completing the re-supply mission to ISS, HTV7 will demonstrate the novel technology for recovering experiment samples from ISS, which Japan has not obtained up until now, by taking advantage of the opportunity of re-entry into Earth with the HTV Small Re-entry Capsule (HSRC) that will be loaded on the HTV for the first time ever.

HSRC mission

Conceptual diagram of HSRC operations (Credit: JAXA)

The HSRC with experiment samples on board will be attached onto the hatch of the Pressurized Logistic Carrier (PLC) of the HTV7 before the HTV7 departs (un-berthed) from ISS. After the HTV7 deorbit burn finished, the capsule will be released from the PLC by the command from the ground and re-enter into Earth’s atmosphere, and subsequently descend on a parachute. The capsule will be recovered from the ocean after splashdown.

HSRC and its payload container overview

Cross section image of HSRC (Credit: JAXA)

The HSRC aboard HTV7 “KOUNOTORI7”, where samples will be kept cool in a passive way (no electric cooler), houses a vacuum double layer insulation container (thermos bottle) and a heat storage unit (refrigerant), inside of which experiment samples will be stored.

Configuration of HSRC and payload container (Credit: JAXA)

Installation of HSRC

Conceptual diagram of installing HSRC aboard HTV (Credit: JAXA)

Before the HTV7 departs from ISS, the crew will load an HSRC-exclusive structure (cylindrical support) onto the hatch at the entry of the Pressurized Logistic Carrier for air tightness (while the hatch of the HTV7 is left open). Onto the structure, the HSRC with the separation mechanism attached will be fixed.

After completing the de-orbit maneuver, the HTV7 will operate the separation mechanism of the HSRC according to the command received from the ground to separate the HSRC from the vehicle.

The HSRC will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere in a guided lift flight, deploy a parachute, and splash down into the sea, which in turn be picked up by Recovery Ship.

Experiment samples taken out from the HSRC will be loaded onto an airplane on Minamitori Island, immediately delivered to the mainland of Japan (The HSRC itself will remain aboard the recovery ship to be delivered to the mainland).

Editor’s Note: The HTV7 launch was originally scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 7.  JAXA has postponed the flight due to a typhoon that is threatening a downrange tracking station in Guam.

  • Panice

    Biomedical researchers have needed a quick-return small parcel service for a long time. This may open new research opportunities.

  • Robert G. Oler


  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Just for old time sakes someone should slip in a roll of film.

  • therealdmt

    JAXA proposed this, along with a couple of other projects, a number of years ago, but a change in governments and a budget crunch following the Fukushima disaster led to a scaling back of space plans (from what I’ve read). Good to see it revived — I had been following this story, and then it died.

    An independent reentry capsule like this should definitely increase the utility of a space laboratory for Japan. Europe should take the initiative and do something similar

  • Jeff2Space

    This looks similar to what the Russians have done in the past with Progress. I forget the name of the capsule. Googling it…

    The name of the capsule was Raduga.

    So here we are recreating something Russia did in the 1990s.

  • SpaceGuy
  • Bulldog

    “I understood that reference”

  • windbourne

    not really.
    RIght now, both Soyuz and Dragon can bring down samples. The question is, can it bring those samples right to the lab????
    Probably the one that will make a difference would be the Dream Chaser.

  • windbourne

    I think that already happened fairly recently on the Soviet nee Russian Side of the ISS.

  • windbourne

    the Discoverer 13 capsule was recovered by the US on August 10, 1960. It was the first man-made object to be recovered from space (the Soviets would send up two dogs and successfully recover them just a week and a half later) and marked the beginning of the age of space-based surveillance.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Oh man, I think I remember that. The cosmonauts were caught taking telephoto pics of the Donbas in Ukraine if I remember right. I doubt a hand held telephoto could get military grade information. Maybe convoys on the highways? What the Russians really need are the old 1m class telephoto lenses they had installed in the Salyut series.

  • duheagle

    If anyone can find a roll of actual film to slip in, that is.

  • windbourne

    Really? I did not hear the other part of that. Kind of surprised that they do not have cams and a decent scope on the iss.

  • Vladislaw

    I believe it will be 3d printed Ballutes.. once you can just print the landing device it will get rid of some of the need for vehicles to do it..

  • Jeff2Space

    Yes the US was first to successfully build, fly, and recover a reentry vehicle. Later the US put multiple reentry vehicles on its spysats so that the satellite lifetime wasn’t limited to a single reentry capsule’s worth of film. These capsules were their own little spacecraft with their own reentry engine.

    This Japanese vehicle and the Russian vehicle are far less capable add-ons to expendable station resupply vehicles. So, they don’t need reentry engines and all of the other assorted equipment that goes along with that. But in my mind it’s a kluge. Better to make the whole thing reenter and reuse it for future resupply missions (e.g. Dragon, Dragon 2, and Dreamchaser).

  • windbourne

    That would be interesting.

  • Vladislaw

    I hope I am around for IN – SPACE manufacturing .. it will be a paradigm shift in thinking. I hope Bezos will fund these kinds of start ups by partnering with a launch vehicle for them to use…

  • MzUnGu

    3D printed Ballutes? U R dreaming. These materials are high temp materials like silica fibers weaved together for strength and flexibility. You gonna need some bigger space -factories or send up some astronaut with sewing experiences. LOL Even if you ablatables, the nasty chemical process will need a separate module on ISS just to be on the safe side.

  • Vladislaw

    Wow since you can see into the future on both the evolution of 3d printing in space and material sciences could you pick some lottery numbers for me? I mean gosh .. no one will have a eureka moment in space .. EVER .. so lets pack it up now.. and just let you read tea leaves for us.