The Expedition 36 crew released Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-4 (HTV-4) cargo craft Wednesday at 12:20 p.m. EDT ending its one-month stay at the International Space Station. Expedition 36 Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg, operating from the station’s cupola robotics work station, used the Canadarm2 to release the cargo craft. Robotic ground controllers at Mission Control, Houston unberthed the HTV-4 from the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module at 8:07 a.m.
HTV-4 will maneuver to a safe distance away from the station where it will be commanded by Japanese flight controllers to deorbit on Saturday, Sept. 7. The craft, now loaded with trash, will burn up as it reenters the Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.
The HTV-4, also known as the “Kounotori-4” for a white stork symbolizing a special delivery, brought up 3.5 tons supplies and gear when it was attached to Harmony. Its departure leaves open Harmony’s docking port for the arrival of the Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Cygnus commercial cargo craft due to arrive in late September.
Orbital Sciences will be the second commercial space company to launch a cargo craft to the International Space Station. They are conducting a demonstration mission of its Cygnus cargo vehicle that is scheduled to launch Sept. 17 as part of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. The mission will demonstrate the Cygnus’ rendezvous and berthing capabilities to the space station.
Meanwhile, Expedition 36 Commander Pavel Vinogradov, Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin and NASA Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy continued their crew departure preparations. The crew participated in onboard Soyuz descent training and conducted an equipment and stowage briefing.
The Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft is being readied for its return to Earth on Sept. 10, U.S. time, to bring home Vinogradov, Misurkin and Cassidy. The spacefarers are packing their Soyuz while their replacements on the ground, Expedition 37/38 crew members Oleg Kotov, Mike Hopkins and Sergey Ryazanskiy prepare for their launch aboard the Soyuz TMA-10M spacecraft on Sept. 25, U.S. time. They will dock to the Poisk mini-research module after four orbits, or about six hours later.