Launchpad Fire Delays JAXA’s Cargo Ship Launch to Space Station

Japan scrubbed a robotic cargo ship’s launch to the International Space Station (ISS) today due to a launchpad fire, according to Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) officials.

JAXA was scheduled to launch Kounotori 8 (HTV-8), an unpiloted supply ship, to the orbiting laboratory from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan at 5:33 p.m. EDT (6:33 a.m. local time), according to a NASA press statement. The agency was reportedly counting down to takeoff at the space center when a blaze erupted on the H-IIB rocket’s mobile launch platform at 3:10 a.m. local time, Space.com reported.

Kounotori 8 was supposed to transport over four tons of equipment and supplies to the space station for the Expedition 60 crew.

“Named Kounotori, meaning white stork in Japanese, the craft will deliver six new lithium-ion batteries and corresponding adapter plates that will replace aging nickel-hydrogen batteries for two power channels on the station’s far port truss segment,” NASA officials said in the press release. “The batteries will be installed through a series of robotics and spacewalks by the station’s crew members later this year.”

Experiments aboard Kounotori 8 include an upgrade to the Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF-L), a payload for testing the effects of gravity on powder and granular material (Hourglass), and a small-sized satellite optical communication system (SOLISS).

Once Kounotori 8 reaches the space station, NASA astronaut and Expedition 60 flight engineer Christina Koch and her NASA crewmate Andrew Morgan, will operate the orbiting laboratory’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture the 12-ton spacecraft. Robotic flight controllers will then resume the operation of the arm to place HTV-8 in the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module, where it will stay there for a month.

JAXA has not announced a back-up launch window for Kounotori 8 at this time.

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