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Sunday, July 29, 2012

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Nice catch: The International Space Station's robotic arm grabs JAXA's Konotori cargo transporter early Saturday. NASA TV / KYODO

Unmanned cargo carrier docks with space station

Kyodo

The Konotori unmanned cargo transporter docked early Saturday with the International Space Station carrying 4.6 tons of supplies, including food, clothing and experiment-related equipment, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said.

Astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, 43, was set to open the hatch and crawl into the Konotori later in the day to transfer the packages to the space station.

This is the third cargo vehicle sent into space by JAXA. It was placed into orbit by an H-IIB rocket that blasted off July 21 from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, and made its way to the ISS while orbiting at an altitude of 400 km under the control of the agency's Tsukuba center in Ibaraki Prefecture.

"The docking went quite smoothly," JAXA project manager Yukio Koyari told a news conference in Tsukuba. "We were nervous because (the Kotonori) was made of domestically manufactured equipment, but we were glad Hoshide and other crew members managed to maneuver it into place and will continue operations."

"I was impressed and proud of the Kotonori, as it is a demonstration of Japanese technology," Hoshide, who arrived at the space station earlier this month aboard a Russian craft, said on Twitter.

The Konotori carried five small satellites that will be sent into orbit from Japan's Kibo lab. It is also equipped with a device that will record images of the cargo transporter's re-entry into the atmosphere and collect data on how it burns up, for use in future manned spacecraft programs and other purposes.

The Kotonori is scheduled to separate from the space station on Sept. 7.



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