Less than two weeks after Russia’s Progress 65 ISS cargo ship blew up on route to the International Space Station (ISS), the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) is coming to save the day. After a successful launch, JAXA’s Kounotori (“White Stork”) HTV-6 has caught the ISS and is slowly moving toward the Harmony Module. Crew members Shane Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet, stationed in the “Cupola,” will use the Canadarm2 to wrangle it onto Harmony’s Earthward dock. NASA will broadcast the attempt starting at 4:30AM ET, with the initial capture around 6AM ET. Broadcast of the final docking will start at 9:15 AM.
The HTV-6 is packing 4.5 tons of supplies, and though the ISS still has plenty of food on board, the delivery will bring some welcome holiday cheer. It’s also packing six new lithium-ion batteries and solar array adapter plates, which astronauts will install in a serious of spacewalks starting in January. The module will remain docked for about five weeks, during which it’ll be unloaded and reloaded with trash. It’ll then be sent towards Earth, where it’ll burn up in the atmosphere.
The Russian Progress ship was well on its way to the ISS when it blew up, apparently because of a problem with the third stage Soyuz motor. Another ISS resupply craft, the SpaceX Falcon 9, exploded on the launch pad recently prior to a satellite launch, due to issues with the carbon fiber helium tank. Another Falcon 9 craft, this one bound for the ISS, also failed on June 28th, 2015, and an Orbital ATK Anatares ISS rocket blew up just after launch on October 28th, 2014. So far, JAXA’s HTV is the only ISS resupply program with a spotless record after six launches.
Update: HTV-6 is 24 minutes ahead of schedule, so you may see the Canadarm2 capture a bit before 6 AM. The final docking will happen starting around 9:15 AM. Live video is now below.