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H-II Transfer Vehicle

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H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) is an unmanned cargo transfer spacecraft that delivers supplies to the International Space Station and the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module. It also called Kounotori ('Oriental Stork' or 'White Stork').

The H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) vehicle is part of the Japanese Space Program. It was designed and developed under the supervision of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

It is launched from the Tanegashima Space Center aboard an H-IIB launch vehicle to the International Space Station.

The HTV approaches the space station automatically and the Canadarm2 (Space Station Remote Manipulator System - SSRMS) grapples the HTV and berths it to the ISS. After unloading the supplies, such as food, clothes and a variety of experiment equipment, the HTV then is loaded with waste materials, including used experiment equipment or used clothes. The HTV then undocks and separates from the ISS, de-orbits and is destroyed during re-entry. The debris falls into the Pacific Ocean.

The H-II Transfer Vehicle is composed of a pressurized and an un-pressurized compartment. While the HTV is berthed to the ISS, the ISS crew will be able to enter and remove the supplies from the HTV Pressurized Logistics Carrier. Internally, it has eight International Standard Payload Racks (ISPRs) in total which can be unloaded by the crew in a shirt-sleeve environment.

The HTV has an external payload bay which is accessed by robotic arm after it has been berthed to the ISS. New payloads can be moved directly from the H-II Transfer Vehicle to Kibo's exposed facility.


Height: 10m (including maneuvering thrusters at one end)
Mass at Launch: 16,500 kg
Total Mass: 10,500 kg
Payload : 6,000 kb (13,000 lb)
Diameter: 4.4m
Crew: no crew


The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) started working on the design since the early 1990s.

HTV-1 was the first mission. It was originally intended to be launched in 2001. It was launched at 17:01 UTC on 10 September 2009 on an H-IIB launch vehicle. The first flight of HTV delivered 4.5 tonnes approx. of new supplies to the International Space Station and demonstrated the HTV's rendezvous and flight capabilities.

HTV-2 (Kounotori 2) was the second Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle and was launched in January 2011.

HTV-3 (Kountori3) was Japan's third H-II Transfer Vehicle. It was launched on a H-IIB Launch vehicle at 11:06 a.m. Saturday, Japan time (at 10:06 p.m. EDT Friday) on  July 21, 2012 from the Tanegashima Space Center, Japan.

HTV-4 (Kountori4) was fourth H-II Transfer Vehicle to visit the ISS. It was launched on 4 August 2013 and its payload included Kirobo, Japan's first robot astronaut.

HTV-5 (Kountori5) is Japan's fourth H-II Transfer Vehicle and will be launched on a H-IIB Launch vehicle in 2014 from the Tanegashima Space Center, Japan.

Launch Date


Re-entry Date
HTV-1 10 September 2009 H-IIB rocket 1 November 2009
HTV-2 22 January 2011 H-IIB rocket 30 March 2011
HTV-3 21 July 2012 H-IIB rocket 14 September 2012
HTV-4 4 August 2013 H-IIB rocket  
HTV-5 2014 H-IIB rocket  
HTV-6 2015 H-IIB rocket  
HTV-7 2016 H-IIB rocket  

Creating the International Space Station
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NASA: Space Shuttle - Training, Facilities, Space Station from

Did you know?

In 2010, JAXA was planning to add a return capsule option. HTV's Pressurized Cargo is replaced by a re-entry module capable of returning 1.6 tonne cargo from ISS to Earth. It is expected to be launched by 2017.

* The H-IIB rocket is more powerful version of the H-IIA and is launched from at the Tanegashima Space Center, Japan.

* After the retirement of NASA's Space Shuttle in 2011, HTVs is the only vehicle that can carry ISPRs to the ISS.

* Other Unmanned Space Vehicles that bring supplies to the International Space Station and they include: Russian Progress spacecraft, European ATV, commercial Dragon and commercial Cygnus spacecraft (planned). The HTV carries more than twice the payload of the Progress spacecraft.

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Updated: Tuesday 1st, April, 2014

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