HOUSTON — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) was moved from the Earth-facing (nadir) to the zenith (space-facing) port of the International Space Station’s Harmony module on Feb. 18, providing the required clearance for the space shuttle Discovery to dock on the STS-133 mission.
Discovery’s scheduled liftoff on the long-delayed 11-12-day assembly and supply mission on Feb. 24 at 4:50 p.m. EST is expected to set up a Feb. 26 rendezvous and docking with the orbiting science laboratory at Harmony’s forward port.
Astronauts Catherine Coleman and Paulo Nespoli and commander Scott Kelly transferred the HTV by grappling the 33-ft.-long cargo capsule with the station’s Canadian robot arm. The 5-hr. operation was completed just beforenoon EST.
HTV-2, christened Kounotori, was launched from the Tanegashima Space Center on Jan. 22. The spacecraft and its more than 4 tons of cargo arrived at the station on Jan. 27. The freighter was grappled by the station’s crew using the Canadian robot arm and berthed at Harmony’s nadir port.
Current planning calls for Kounotori to be returned to the zenith port with robot arm operations on March 7, or shortly after Discovery’s departure. Kounotori, which will be filled with trash, is scheduled for unberthing on March 28, followed by a destructive descent into the Earth’s atmosphere.
Meanwhile, the station’s Russian crew prepared the Progress 39 for a Feb. 20 undocking (8:12 a.m. EST) and deorbit. The departure will free the station’s aft docking port for the arrival of the European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle, Johannes Kepler (Aerospace DAILY, Feb. 18).
Kepler, launched on Feb. 16 from Kourou, French Guiana, is scheduled to arrive with nearly 8 tons of propellant for re-boost and attitude control as well as other supplies on Feb. 24 at 10:45 a.m. EST, or just hours before Discovery’s scheduled liftoff.