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Japan successfully launches unmanned cargo ship to ISS

Japan today used a Mitsubishi H-2B rocket to successfully launch an unmanned cargo ship to ISS.

The cargo ship will take five days to rendezvous and dock with ISS. Its most interesting piece of cargo is a small capsule with a heat shield, designed to return experiment samples to Earth.

JAXA says the the capsule has an internal volume of about 30 liters, and astronauts could load up to 44 pounds (20 kilograms) of specimens inside the landing craft, which features a thermos-like container to store refrigerated biological samples. That is a fraction of the carrying capacity of the Dragon capsule, but the new HTV Small Return Capsule will offer station managers a new way to make sure time-critical items can return to Earth for analysis.

Astronauts will assemble the return capsule after the HTV arrives at the station, and mount it into position over the HTV’s forward hatch for deployment once the supply ship leaves the station.

The capsule, which carries no engines of its own, will jettison after the HTV completes its deorbit burn. The re-entry craft will deploy a parachute and splash down in the Pacific Ocean, where recovery teams will retrieve it and bring it back to Japan for inspections.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

25 China
16 SpaceX
8 Russia
5 Europe (Arianespace)
5 Japan

For Japan to be tied with Europe this late in the year either indicates that Europe is sagging, or Japan is growing. I suspect it is partly both. In the national rankings China still leads the U.S. 25 to 24.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • Man-made

    Mr. Z: Which country leads, if you refer the number of launches to the number of inhabitants of the country? By the way, Europe is not nation nor it is a country, but it is a continent.

  • Man-made: Europe’s launches were all done by Arianespace, a corporation run under the auspices of the European Space Agency (ESA). I think my listing is very clear and accurate. If you want to be petty I could list this as the European Union, but that really isn’t right, since that organization really doesn’t run ESA.

    I am counting launches, straight up. You want to break it down in other ways you are free to do so. Others for example have suggested that what counts more is the tonnage placed in orbit. I also told them I’d be interested in their analysis.

  • wayne

    Launch of Japanese HTV-7 on H-IIB Rocket

  • wodun

    Others for example have suggested that what counts more is the tonnage placed in orbit. I also told them I’d be interested in their analysis.

    That really would be great, its just too big of a chore and there would be numbers missing for some launches.

  • wayne

    Considering the Japanese expertise in cameras, optics, and electronics, they might consider stepping up their audio-visual PR game.

  • Edward

    Others for example have suggested that what counts more is the tonnage placed in orbit.

    There are a number of interesting metrics that can be applied. Tonnage could be a measure of a country’s ability and willingness to place hardware into orbit or as probes to other planets and locations (e.g. solar orbit). After all, do smaller satellites such as Sputnik and Explorer 1 count as much as larger satellites, such as Hubble? They do when the metric is number of launches. Tonnage could act as an indicator of the amount of junk in Earth’s orbit and each country’s contribution to it.

    The usefulness of the hardware could be another useful metric, such as the amount of data returned or amount of revenue, for commercial satellites.

    Total expected mission longevity, summed over all the payloads launched that year.

    I worked for a satellite manufacturing company that used the total historical satellite operational time, in hundreds of years, as an indicator of the value of the communication satellites they had built. A country’s total satellite and probe operational time could also measure that country’s operational experience.

    How about the number of a country’s astronauts, cosmonauts, taikonauts, spationauts (France), etc. that went into space each year?

    Maybe the number of launches per 100 million population indicates a country’s people’s commitment to space:
    Country Launches population launches per
    (100 million) 100 million
    China 25 14 1.8
    Europe 5 7.4 0.7
    Japan 5 1.3 3.9
    Russia 8 1.4 5.7
    USA 24 3.3 7.3
    (I hope these columns line up when posted)

    However, the number of launches is a traditional metric standard, one that does not take into account other interesting factors. A couple of questions to ponder: when there are large numbers of small rockets putting large numbers of cubesats into orbit, will the number of launches seem or be any less interesting or important? When there are large numbers of manned launches each year, will that become a separate metric standard?

    Science, exploration, innovation, and commerce will still be done with those smaller payloads, and their ease of launch (low manufacturing, launch, and operational costs) may result in far more productivity in space than if we had fewer launches of large payloads. More countries, companies, universities, and individuals will be able to afford to do their own operations in space.

    Even if it is an average Joe working in a small shop just behind his garage to build a prototype solar array for a proof of concept test on orbit — because “the price was right.

  • born01930

    Would an old satellite like a geostationary one that was pushed in a higher orbit be considered salvage? I don’t know if there is much value there but does the OST cover them? Could someone go up and grab the older sats and bring them back down?

  • born1930: According to the treaty, a satellite belongs to the nation that launched it, under that nation’s laws. So a private American commercial satellite would belong to the company that paid for its construction and launch, and you couldn’t salvage it without their permission.

  • JLopes

    Thank you for answering the long standing question about salvage rights in space. The only time I have seen this topic discussed was about the ISEE-3 reactivation, and whether maritime salvage law applied:
    Looks like I can not go to the local DMV and file a salvage title claim on one of the Lincoln Experimental Satellites. Just joking!


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