Launch 2020: A Year of Transition for Japan

The United Arab Emirates’ Hope Probe took off at 2:58 p.m. PDT on July 19 from a launch site in Japan, headed for Mars to study its atmosphere. (Credit: MHI Launch Services via YouTube)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a typical year for Japan with four successful launches and no failures. Japan has averaged 3.8 launches annually over the past decade. Last year also saw a Japanese astronaut become the first foreigner to fly aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.

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Launch 2020: A Busy Year Filled with Firsts in the Face of COVID-19 Pandemic

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

SpaceX dominated, China surged and Russia had another clean sheet as American astronauts flew from U.S. soil again in a year of firsts.

First in a series

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very busy launch year with a number of firsts in both human and robotic exploration. A total of 114 orbital launches were attempted, with 104 successes and 10 failures. It was the same number of launches that were conducted in 2018, with that year seeing 111 successes, two failures and one partial failure.

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New HTV-X Resupply Ship to Be More Capable, Affordable

HTV-X cargo ship. (Credit; JAXA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On May 21, a Japanese H-IIB rocket roared off the launch pad with the ninth and final H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) (Kounotori) resupply ship to the International Space Station (ISS).

But, the launch was not the end of the line for Japanese cargo delivery. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is developing an improved variant known as HTV-X to supply the space station and possibly the lunar Gateway.

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JAXA HTV-9 Spacecraft to Carry Science, Technology to Space Station

The H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is pictured in the grip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm before it was attached to the International Space Station’s Harmony module. The orbiting complex was soaring 259 miles above the African nation of Cameroon just after crossing the Atlantic Ocean. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — A Japanese cargo spacecraft loaded with experiment hardware, supplies and spare parts is scheduled to launch from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan to the International Space Station at 1:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday, May 20 (2:30 a.m. May 21 in Japan). The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) unpiloted H-II Transport Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) carries investigations testing a new livestreaming educational tool, microscope and telescope.

Here are details about some of the scientific investigations and facilities heading to the orbiting lab on HTV-9.

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Application of Aerothermo Dynamics CFD for HTV Small Re-entry Capsule Project

Results of aerodynamic heating analysis at the time when the HTV small re-entry capsule (HSRC) entered into the Earth’s atmosphere. It analyzed the temperature distributions over the surface, and the level of how much the surface was heated. (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Continuous research effort on the high-fidelity numerical simulation to predict various physical phenomenon have been made in research and development directorate.

Efficient development risk identification and mitigation become possible by using numerical simulations rather than the high-cost experiments. In addition, an efficient investigation on the key physics mechanisms are also possible since the detailed physical data distributions are available.
Numerical simulations have been applied to wide variety of design problems such as the H3 rocket, the spacecrafts and the aircrafts.

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Japan to Develop Gateway Habitat, Resupply Vehicles

Gateway with Orion over the Moon (Credit: ESA/NASA/ATG Medialab)

The Ashahi Shimbun reports that Japan has formally signed on to NASA’s lunar Gateway project with specific elements to develop.

Japan’s space agency plans to take charge of development of a habitation module and an unmanned logistics vehicle for the Gateway cislunar space station as part of an international project….

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) hopes to showcase the country’s excellence in technologies with an eye toward having a Japanese astronaut included in the lunar mission.

JAXA plans to work with its European counterpart to develop the habitation module by drawing on technologies it cultivated during the development and operation of the International Space Station’s Kibo experiment module, including one for recycling air and water aboard a spacecraft.

It also plans to take charge of resupplying goods using the HTV-X, a spacecraft under development as a successor to the Kounotori (HTV) unmanned transfer vehicle, seven units of which have been launched successfully.

China Launch Surge Left U.S., Russia Behind in 2018

Long March 2F rocket in flight carrying Shenzhou-11. (Credit: CCTV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The year 2018 was the busiest one for launches in decades. There were a total of 111 completely successful launches out of 114 attempts. It was the highest total since 1990, when 124 launches were conducted.

China set a new record for launches in 2018. The nation launched 39 times with 38 successes in a year that saw a private Chinese company fail in the country’s first ever orbital launch attempt.

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NASA Television to Air 10 Upcoming Spacewalks, Preview Briefing

NASA astronauts Nick Hague (top) and Anne McClain work to swap batteries in the Port-4 truss structure during today’s spacewalk. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Astronauts aboard the International Space Station plan to conduct what may become a record pace of 10 complex spacewalks during the next three months, a cadence that has not been experienced since assembly of the space station was completed in 2011.

Experts will discuss those plans in a briefing at 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Oct. 1, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Live coverage of the briefing and all spacewalks will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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Launch of Japanese Cargo Ship Rescheduled for Wednesday

Canadarm2, the ISS’s robotic arm, grapples and berths unpiloted resupply ships, a manoeuvre known as a “cosmic catch.” (Credit: NASA)

TOKYO (MHI PR) — Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) has revised the launch schedule of the H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 8 (H-IIB F8) which carries aboard the H-II Transfer Vehicle “KOUNOTORI8” (HTV8), the cargo transporter to the International Space Station (ISS) from the JAXA Tanegashima Space Center.

Launch Date: Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019 at 1:05 am JST (Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 1605 UTC/12:05 pm EDT)*1
Launch Window: Sept. 26 through Oct. 31, 2019

The changes will be made based on the results of the latest orbit based analysis (※ 1) of the International Space Station and Soyuz spacecraft. It was revealed there’s a possibility that the 2nd stage of H-IIB rocket after separation from “KOUNOTORI8” may approach the Soyuz spacecraft.

MHI canceled the launch of the H-IIB F8 on September 11 due to a fire at the movable launch pad exit hole during the countdown operation.

As a result of the investigation, it was confirmed that there was a high possibility that the fire spread due to the static electricity generated by the oxygen dripping from the engine exhaust port during the propellant filling operation, which continued to blow on the heat-resistant material in the exit hole at the movable launch pad.

We have taken corrective measures and have confirmed normal functioning of the rocket and facility.

*1: Collision Avoidance Analysis to prevent collision between the rocket and debris from the rocket and manned space systems (Space Station, etc.) in orbit after launching the rocket. The launch was previously rescheduled for September 24, 2019.

The launch time is subject to change as the ISS orbit is updated.

Launch time and date during this period are pending, determined by the ISS operations and other status.

Japanese H-IIB Booster Suffers Fire on Launch Pad

The rocket remains intact, but the H-IIB rocket will not launch the HTV cargo ship to the International Space Station today.

This is a developing story. I will update as JAXA releases more information.

Japanese Cargo Ship Set to Launch to ISS

H-II Transfer Vehicle KOUNOTORI8, the cargo transporter to the International Space Station (ISS), will launch aboard the H-IIB Vehicle No. 8 from JAXA Tanegashima Space Center as follows:

Date: Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Time: 6:33 a.m. JST (2133 GMT /5:33 p.m. EDT Tuesday, September 10)
Reserved Launch Period: September 12 through October 31, 2019
Arrival at ISS: Evening of September 14, 2019

JAXA Spacecraft to Carry Science, Technology to the Space Station

HTV in flight (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) cargo ship H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) is scheduled to lift off Sept. 10 at 5:33 p.m. EDT (6:33 a.m. Japan Standard Time) to the International Space Station from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center, 10 years after JAXA launched its first HTV mission. HTV-8 arrives at the space station on Sept. 14.

Here are details about some of the scientific investigations and facilities heading to the orbiting lab on HTV-8.

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JAXA, Sony CSL to Conduct In-Orbit Demonstrations of Long-Distance Laser Communication Using ISS Kibo Module

Figure 1: SOLISS system flight model (Credit: JAXA/Sony CSL)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA, President: Hiroshi Yamakawa) and Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc. (Sony CSL, President and CEO: Hiroaki Kitano) have announced their plans to conduct in-orbit demonstrations of the long-distance laser communication system, which they have jointly developed with the aim of establishing a real-time, mass-data communication system for future inter-satellite communications and communications with ground stations.

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Sierra Nevada to Provide Hardware for Japanese HTV-X ISS Missions

HTV-6 cargo ship approaches the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

SPARKS, Nev., May 31, 2019 (SNC PR) –Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security contractor owned by SNC CEO Fatih Ozmen and Chairwoman and President Eren Ozmen, teamed with the Marubun Corporation of Tokyo, Japan and has been awarded a contract to supply critical hardware for Japan’s HTV-X cargo spacecraft.

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