HTV-6 (H-II Transfer Vehicle-6)
|Launch date||9 December 2016|
|End of life date||7 February 2017|
HTV-6 (H-II Transfer Vehicle-6 / Kounotori-6)
The Japanese HTV-6 vehicle will transfer new ISS batteries in addition to conventional cargo items such as water, food, experiment equipment, and ISS system equipment. The existing ISS batteries will be replaced with new batteries made in Japan to deal with the extended ISS program. While there are 48 nickel-metal hydride batteries on the ISS, the 24 new Japanese lithium-ion batteries are sufficient to achieve the same power capacity. These batteries are to be transferred by HTV-6 to HTV-9. Kounotori-6 will deliver six battery ORUs (Orbit Replacement Units), each with a mass of 250 kg. 1) 2)
The HTV-6 will also be used for on-orbit technology demonstrations. As a first step for active space debris removal, the KITE (Kounotori Integrated Tether Experiment) is planned for the HTV-6 flight (Figure 1). The objective of KITE is to demonstrate the key technologies of electrodynamic tethers (EDTs) for debris removal. EDT is a promising means of de-orbit propulsion for the debris removal systems in LEO due to its various advantages, such as no consumables or low electric power required, no thrust vectoring needed during maneuvers, and easy attachment to debris.
The SFINKS (Solar Cell Film Array Sheet for Next-generation on Kounotori Six) is also planned for a new array demonstration using part of the HTV-6 module.
The HTV-6/Kounotori-6 aboard the H-IIB vehicle was launched to the ISS on December 9, 2016 (13:26 :47 UTC) from TNSC (Tanegashima Space Center). The launch vehicle provider was MHI (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries). The launch vehicle flew as planned, and at approximately 15 minutes and 11 seconds after liftoff, the separation of HTV6 was confirmed. 4) 5)
MHI and JAXA postponed the launch of the H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 6 with "Kounotori-6" (HTV-6, a cargo transporter to the International Space Station) on board, which was previously scheduled for Oct. 1, 2016. A slight leak was detected from piping of the HTV-6 during an air tightness test. The test is part of HTV-6 launch preparations at the launch site. 6) 7)
On Dec. 13, the HTV-6 will approach the station from below, and slowly inch its way toward the complex. Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) will operate the station's Canadarm2 robotic arm from the station's cupola to reach out and grapple the 12-ton spacecraft and install it on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module, where it will spend more than five weeks. Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA will monitor HTV-6 systems during the rendezvous and grapple. 8)
Orbit: Near circular orbit of the ISS, altitude of ~ 400 km, inclination = 51.6º.
Cargo of the HTV-6 Vehicle
The HTV-6 delivers a total of 5.9 metric tons of cargo to the ISS, including 3.9 metric tons in the PLC (Pressurized Logistics Carrier) and 1.9 metric tons in the ULC (Unpressurized Logistics Carrier). 9)
Cargo for the onboard crew: Kounotori-6 (White Stork) delivers 600 liter of water from Tanegashima island. This amount sustains three onboard astronauts for four months. The water will be recycled on orbit. Also, fresh food, grown in Japan, is delivered.
Upgraded J-SSOD (JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer)
An upgraded J-SSOD with a doubled deployment capacity from 6U to 12U CubeSats is delivered to the ISS. The J-SSOD-2 features the Multi-Purpose Experiment Platform as its structural backbone, but hosts four 3U deployers for a total capacity of 12 CubeSat Units. JAXA plans to send an 18U deployer to ISS on the next HTV flight followed by a 48U deployer in 2019. 10)
The following CubeSats are being launched and then later deployed from Kibo using the upgraded J-SSOD-2, featuring a doubled deployment capacity. 11)
• AOBA-Velox-III, a 2U CubeSat of Kyutech (Kyushu Institute of Technology), Japan and NTU (Nanyang Technological University), Singapore. The objective is to demonstrate the performance of a PPT (Pulsed Plasma Thruster).
• TuPOD (Satellite/deployer containing first TubeSats), a 3U CubeSat of JAMSS/GAUSS Srl (Italy)/Tancredo elementary school & INPE (Brazil) / OSN (Open Space Network, USA). Objective: Deployment of two 1.5U CubeSats (called TubeSats). 12)
Note: JAMSS (Japan Manned Space Systems Corporation), Tsukuba, operation and utilization support of JEM.
• EGG (re-Entry satellite with Gossamer aeroshell and GPS/Iridium), a 3U CubeSat of the University of Tokyo, Japan. Objective: Inflation of a torus-shaped aeroshell and its deorbit demonstration.
• ITF-2 (Imagine The Future-2), a 1U CubeSat of the University of Tsukuba, Japan. Objective: Building a ground network using amateur radio via a satellite.
• UBSKUSAT, a 3U CubeSat, a joint Turkish and Japanese venture of ITU (Istanbul Technical University) Turkey, and Kyutech (Kyushu Institute of Technology), Japan.
• STARS-C, a 2U CubeSat of Kagawa University (Shizuoka University), Japan. Objective: Technology demonstration of tether extension between two 1U CubeSats.
• FREEDOM, a 1U CubeSat of Nakashimada Engineering Works, Ltd./Tohoku University, Japan. Objective: Deployment of a film-type deorbiting device.
• WASEDA-SAT3, a 1U CubeSat of Waseda University, Japan. Objective: Deployment of a film-type deorbiting device and image protection onto the film surface using a micro-miniature projector.
• TechEdSat-5, a 3U CubeSat, developed by students of SJSU (San Jose State University), the University of Idaho, and NASA/ARC (Ames Reserach Center).
• Lemur-2, four 3U CubeSats of Spire Global to provide AIS (Automatic Identification System) tracking services.
• Also arriving at station are two university research demonstrations. The Radiation Tolerant Computer Mission on the ISS (RTcMISS) developed by Montana State University will test a new computer system designed to withstand the harmful effects of space radiation, to demonstrate the system's ability to work in the real space environment. 13)
- Using a commercial Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) fabricated in a process node of 45 nm yields an acceptable level of total ionizing dose (TID) immunity inherently through minimal feature sizes. The use of a modern commercial FPGA also provides a significant increase in computational performance and power efficiency compared to custom, radiation hardened processors that use radiation hardened by design (RHBD) or radiation hardened by process (RHBP) techniques. The use of a commercial FPGA produces a tremendous reduction in cost by avoiding using low-volume, custom, radiation-hardened parts.
• The Dependable Multiprocessor experiment (DM-7) developed by Morehead State University and Honeywell Aerospace is a NanoRacks External Platform (NREP) payload, funded by the Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), will achieve TRL7 (Technology Readiness Level 7) by demonstrating a small, light-mass, low-power, low-cost, COTS-based (Commercial-Off-The-Shelf), high performance computing cluster controlled by software designed to significantly increase the amount of onboard science and autonomy processing by increasing computing speed, offering a variety of fault tolerance modes, and reducing computing errors in the space environment.
TPF (Two Phase Flow) experiment
TPF in the Kibo module provides thermal management systems offering high performance: these service functions are indispensable for most sophisticated and larger spacecraft. Cooling methods using latent heat during boiling are considered prospective candidates for next-generation spacecraft. An ebullient cooling system will be demonstrated while studying its exhaust heat transfer and dependence on gravitational acceleration.
PS-TEPC (Position Sensitive - Tissue Equivalent Proportional Chamber)
A compact, high-precision inboard dosimeter that enables real-time measurement is delivered for technological demonstration. PS-TEPC is a radiation study that measures absorbed doses and path length of space radiation simultaneously and also determines the real time LET (Liner Energy Transfer), and human-tissue equivalent doses for an objective examination of radiation risk to crew members during space flight.
PS-TEPC has been developed as a dosimeter with fine position sensitivity in addition to precise energy measurements using a human-tissue-equivalent material. The study of PS-TEPC in the space environment will reveal whether the instrument is suitable for the real-time monitoring of radiation in the space environment.
HDTV-EF2 (High Definition TV Camera - Exposed Facility 2)
This unit consists of two types of high-definition TV cameras (4k and 2k). Night photographing is possible. The HDTV-EF2 payload is to be installed on the Exposed Facility Unit Adapter of the Kibo Module to add to the Station's high-definition Earth-observation capability. The two cameras are installed on a two-axis gimbal mechanism to be controlled from the ground to target observations of areas of interest.
CDRA (Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly)
CDRA is an ORU (Orbital Replacement Unit) of NASA. The CDRA is one of the crucial assemblies for the life support of onboard astronauts. Since the unit is large and has an unique shape, the loading method has been deliberated. By taking advantage of the "late accessing" function provided by Kounotori and the team, CDRA ORUs are to be loaded about a week prior to launch.
There are two CDRAs onboard the Space Station. CDRA maintains the carbon dioxide partial pressure at under 5.3mm Hg for up to nine crew members. Each CDRA unit comprises two beds known as a Desiccant/Adsorbent Bed Orbital Replacement Unit. CO2 rich air enters the CDRA assembly and first passes through a desiccant bed of silica gel that removes moisture from the air because the CO2 removal bed is sensitive to water. The adsorbent bed is composed of Zeolite, an aluminum-silicate that acts as a molecular sieve – filtering out carbon dioxide through a highly porous material. A desorbing desiccant bed re-humidifies the air before it is released back into the cabin.
ISS battery ORUs (ISS battery Orbital Replacement Units)
The next six battery ORUs, consisting of new Li-Ion (Lithium-Ion) battery cells manufactured by a Japanese company, are delivered. This is cargo in the ULC (Unpressurized Logistics Carrier). The NiH2 (Nickel Hydrogen) batteries currently used on the ISS are getting old. The extension of ISS operations becomes possible with the supply of Japanese lithium-ion battery cells. Only the HTV is capable of delivering six battery ORUs at one time, and thus plays an important role in continuous ISS operations.
KITE (Kounotori Integrated Tether Experiment)
Kounotori-6 not only delivers cargo for the ISS, but also delivers orbital experiment devices for further space development.
JAXA conducts on-orbit technological demonstrations of the EDT (Electrodynamic Tether) to test its propulsion mechanism for alleviating growing concerns over space debris. The tether is equipped with a 20 kg end mass and is extended from Kounotori-6 to a length of 700 meters. A maximum 10 mA current will run through the tether. The KITE-EDT is a bare-wire-tether intended to collect electrons and act as a field-emission cathode for the release of electrons – an arrangement that could provide complete propellant-less propulsion for deorbitation of spacecraft as part of Active Debris Removal.
This pioneering test will be conducted for seven days after the unberthing of Kounotori-6 and before its reentry into the atmosphere. The KITE system EDT demonstration is expected to remove space debris from LEO (Low Earth Orbit).
Studies have shown, that if five large pieces of debris are removed from crowded orbits, a cascading increase of the population of smaller debris (through collisions between debris pieces) can be halted. Removing five pieces of debris per year is not an unrealistic goal for ADR (Active Debris Removal) missions and the KITE project proposes attaching EDTs to debris pieces to bring them to a swift reentry.
There are a number of advantages of EDTs over other ADR proposals, first and foremost is the fact that they require no propellant and only very little electrical power because the electromagnetic force generating the thrust component is created by the tether current's interaction with the geomagnetic field. Also, EDT-based systems require no active guidance in the form of thrust vectoring and no attention has to be paid to the mass characteristics of the debris piece.
The KITE Experiment comprises a number of external components on the HTV – the tether with its end mass, the releasing mechanism, a camera to monitor dynamics within the KITE-HTV complex, an Electron emitter, Plasma & current monitor, magnetic sensor and a Power & data handling unit.
The individual tether yarns have a mesh structure to avoid the tether being severed by small-sized space debris & to optimize electron collection. The tether is rolled up and housed within the end mass of the EDT system with the last ten meters of the tether connected to a braking reel that introduces a mechanical friction to bring the deployment to a graceful stop instead of an abrupt stopping point that would cause rebounding or severing of the tether.
SFINKS (Solar Cell Film Array Sheet for Next Generation on Kounotori Six)
SFINKS is planned for new array demonstrations using part of the HTV-6 module. The objective of SFINKS is to test the efficiency of thin film solar arrays that could offer significant mass-savings compared to rigid solar panels currently in use by most spacecraft. The thin-film solar array tested on HTV-6 are made by depositing layers of thin-film of photovoltaic material on a flexible plastic creating a thin, lightweight sheet that can take various shapes.
The SFINKS sheet hosts triple-junction solar cells with a high efficiency of 32% with a mass of a 5 x 3-cell array of only 30 grams. SFINKS hosts a total of six five-cell strings on a single sheet installed on the Service Module of the HTV-6 spacecraft.
Over the course of the mission, the voltage and current output from the array will be measured to demonstrate the efficiency of the thin-film cells. The test also looks at the durability of the arrays in the launch and space environment, monitoring possible degradation as a result of ionizing radiation and ultraviolet light from the sun.
The HTV-6 undertakes the role of reentering the atmosphere while loaded with up to 6 metric tons of waste and expired experiment devices that are no longer necessary. Kounotori-6 reenters the atmosphere carrying the old nickel-hydrogen batteries onboard that were removed from the ISS (Ref. 10).
• February 7, 2017: Japan's HTV-6/Kounotori-6 cargo ship descended to an altitude of 120 km over the east coast of New Zealand and reentered the Earth's atmosphere at around 15:06 UTC on February 5, 2017. Kounotori-6 successfully completed its cargo supply mission to the ISS. - Prior to reentry, three deorbit maneuvers were performed on February 5. 14) 15)
• February 2, 2017: JAXA has reported that an unmanned cargo ship that was released from the International Space Station last week has failed to extend a cable that is required to test technology to remove debris from orbit. 16)
- The Kounotori-6 cargo transporter, which departed the ISS on Jan. 27, was initially scheduled to stretch the 700 meter long KITE (Kounotori Integrated Tether Experiment) cable the same day, but was unable to do so, JAXA said on Jan. 31. The agency said attempts will continue to extend the cable until Saturday, before the cargo ship burns up during reentry on Feb. 5. Unfortunately, all KITE release attempts failed.
- The experiment was aimed at removing a piece of space debris by slowing that debris down with an electric current passed through the cable. Once slowed down, the debris should burn up in the Earth's atmosphere. Roughly 18,000 pieces of debris measuring 10 cm or larger, from satellites and rockets, are estimated to be orbiting the Earth, posing a risk to the space station and satellites. 17)
• On January 27, 2017, Expedition 50 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA and Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA commanded the International Space Station's Canadarm2 robotic arm to release the HTV-6/Kounotori-6 cargo vehicle of JAXA at 15:46 UTC. 18) 19) 20)
- The cargo ship will now move to a safe distance below (~20 km) and in front of the station for about a week's worth of data gathering with the JAXA experiment KITE (Kounotori Integrated Tether Experiment), designed to measure electromagnetic forces using a tether in LEO (Low Earth Orbit). JAXA is scheduled to deorbit the craft on Feb. 5. Loaded with trash, the vehicle will burn up harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean.
• January 23, 2017: Mission controllers are preparing to release Japan's Kounotori cargo ship from the International Space Station at the end of the week. Meanwhile, the Expedition 50 crew is getting ready for a new protein crystal experiment and reconfiguring combustion science gear. 21)
- JAXA is getting ready to complete its sixth cargo mission to the station. Overnight, robotics controllers maneuvered the Canadarm2 robotic arm holding an external pallet with discarded nickel-hydrogen batteries and installed them inside the Japanese cargo ship for disposal.
- Next, the Canadarm2 will release Japan's HTV-6 resupply ship from the Harmony module on Jan. 27 for a fiery reentry back in Earth's atmosphere.
• January 16, 2017: Six CubeSats were released from the ISS on January 16 . They were deployed via the Kibo airlock using the new J-SSOD (JEM - Small Satellite Orbital Deployer) developed by JAXA (Figure 18). The series of deployments was conducted in the following order: 22) 23)
1) Three 1U-sized CubeSats: ITF-2, developed by University of Tsukuba; WASEDA-SAT3 of Waseda University; and FREEDOM of Nakashimata Engineering Works, Ltd./Tohoku University.
2) EGG: A 3U-sized CubeSat by the University of Tokyo
3) AOBA-VELOX III: A 2U-sized CubeSat co-developed by Kyushu Institute of Technology and NTU (Nanyang Technological University) of Singapore. The nanosatellite features a unique micro-thruster, using pulsed plasma, built by NTU. The thruster enables the satellite to remain in space twice as long than it usually would.
4) TuPOD: A 3U-sized CubeSat, containing two microsatellites called TubeSats, co-developed by JAMSS/GAUSS/Tancred elementary school and INPE (Brazil)/OSN (U.S.).
These CubeSats were launched on December 9, 2016 aboard the HTV-6 (H-II Transfer Vehicle-6) Kounotori-6 and arrived at the ISS on December 14 alongside the STARS-C CubeSat that has already been deployed.
On December 19, 2016, STARS-C (Space Tethered Autonomous Robotic Satellite-C) was ejected from the ISS via J-SSOD. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson helped the JAXA ground team to deploy the satellite. The satellite is actually two small satellites that, once at a safe distance from the station, separated from each other, but were still connected by a 100 m long Kevlar tether. 24)
STARS-C is the third mission in the STARS project of Kagawa University with previous missions in 2009 and 2014. The first two missions consisted of a Mothership and Daughter Satellite connected through a tether with communications through a Bluetooth System.
In contrast to the first two STARS missions which used microsatellites, STARS-C complies with the 2U CubeSat form factor with a launch mass of 2.66 kg. It comprises two fully functional 1U CubeSats that will be separated after release from ISS by deploying a 100 m long Kevlar tether with a diameter of 0.4 mm. The tether deployment sequence is driven by gravitational forces which requires the satellite to hold a defined attitude for the deployment.
• January 17, 2017: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet completed his first spacewalk last Friday (Jan 13, 2016) together with NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough to complete a battery upgrade to the outpost's power system. 25)
- One of the impracticalities of a spacewalk is that everything must be secured or tied down or it will float away – including the astronauts themselves. For any work requiring two hands astronauts must install a restraint for their feet in order to stay in contact with the Space Station.
- Astronauts on a spacewalk have two tethers, much like rock climbers, to stop them from floating away if they ever lose hold. A belt tether is clipped from rail to rail as they ‘walk' across the Station's exterior. A second self-reeling tether connects them to the airlock, seen in this picture extending from behind Thomas' left foot. If need be, they can follow this tether back to the airlock – ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano used this to return inside after his helmet filled with water and he was unable to see properly during a spacewalk in 2013.
- The spacewalk went as planned and, even better, Shane and Thomas performed a number of extra tasks once they had installed the batteries. They retrieved a failed camera, installed a protective cover on an unused docking port, moved handrails in preparation for future spacewalks and took pictures of external facilities for ground control. The duo spent five hours and 58 minutes outside the International Space Station.
• January 13, 2017: Installation of batteries via two EVAs (Extra Vehicular Activities). Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA concluded their spacewalk. During the nearly six hour spacewalk, the two astronauts successfully installed three new adapter plates and hooked up electrical connections for three of the six new lithium-ion batteries on the International Space Station. 26)
- The new lithium-ion batteries and adapter plates replace the nickel-hydrogen batteries currently used on the station to store electrical energy generated by the station's solar arrays. These new batteries provide an improved power capacity for operations with a lighter mass and a smaller volume than the nickel-hydrogen batteries. Robotic work to update the batteries began in January. This was the second of two spacewalks to finalize the installation. Additional batteries will be replaced as part of this power upgrade over the next couple of years as new batteries are delivered to station.
- The astronauts were also able to accomplish several get-ahead tasks including stowing padded shields from Node 3 outside of the station to make room inside the airlock and taking photos to document hardware for future spacewalks.
- This was the second spacewalk in a week for Kimbrough and the fourth of his career, and the first for Pesquet in the refurbishment of two of the station's eight power channels.
• Two NASA astronauts on the first of two spacewalks outside the International Space Station made swift work to help with the replacement of the old batteries with new lithium-ion units. They even had enough time left over to perform several get-ahead tasks. EVA 38 was performed by NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson. The goal was to install three adapter plates next to three lithium-ion batteries that were installed robotically late last week. 27)
- On New Year's Eve, the ground-based robotics team used the Canadarm2 and the smaller Dextre ‘hand' to swap out four aging nickel-hydrogen batteries for three of six lithium-ion batteries. They were brought up last month by the Japanese Kounotori 6 cargo ship.
- The lithium-ion batteries are lighter and more efficient than the old nickel-hydrogen ones. As such, only six lithium-ion units are needed to replace 12 nickel-hydrogen batteries.
- The space station's truss assembly has eight large Solar Array Wings, each attached to a power channel with three strings of batteries. Each string of batteries contained two nickel-hydrogen units in series.
- One lithium-ion battery, as well as an adapter plate, will replace two nickel-hydrogen units. A data link cable will connect the plate and lithium battery. Additionally, the top of the adapter plate can be used to store an old and depleted nickel-hydrogen battery.
- The work area for the EVA and robotic operations was the Starboard 4 (S4) truss segment, which is where the 3A and 1A power channels are located. Today's spacewalk primarily focused on the former, while next week's spacewalk (Jan. 13) will focus on the latter.
• December 14, 2016: HTV-6/Kounotori-6 started its final approach to the ISS (International Space Station), and was captured by the ISS robotic arm at 10:39 UTC on December 13. Being captured and maneuvered by the robotic arm, the HTV-6 was successfully berthed to the ISS at 18:24 UTC. 28) 29) 30)
- NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet captured Kounotori-6 with the station's robotic arm , SSRMS (Space Station Remote Manipulator System) at 10:39 UTC, December 13. The SSRMS is also referred to as Canadarm2.
- The CBM (Common Berthing Mechanism) between Kounotori-6 and the Harmony module was fastened with bolts at 14:48 UTC, December 13.
- The ISS Expedition 50 crew opened the hatch of Kounotori-6 and entered the PLC (Pressurized Logistics Carrier) at19:44 UTC, December 13.
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31) "Expedition 50," ESA, Dec. 16, 2016, URL: http://m.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2016/12/Expedition_50
32) Mark Garcia, "Japan's "White Stork" Spacecraft Installed on Station," NASA, December 13, 2016, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2016/12/13/japans-white-stork-spacecraft-installed-on-station/
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (firstname.lastname@example.org).