JAXA Returns Capsule With ISS Experiments Aboard

HTV Small Re-entry Capsule (Credit: JAXA)

JAXA has successfully recovered a capsule with experiments aboard from the International Space Station (ISS) for the first time.

The HTV Small Re-entry Capsule (HSRC) splashed down in the ocean under a parachute near the island of Minamitorishima. The experimental capsule separated from the HTV-7 (Kounotori) resupply ship after the latter separated from ISS. Kounotori burned up in Earth’s atmosphere as planned.

Cross section image of HSRC (Credit: JAXA)

“Towards the goal to acquire Japan’s first cargo recovery capacity from the ISS, the Small Re-entry Capsule will be demonstrating its guided lift flight capabilities that will enable the capsule to descent under reduced G-forces, as well as its heat protection capability of the ablator while its re-entry into the atmosphere,” JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa said in a press release. “We expect that these efforts will lead to securing flexibility in our future space flight activities.”

HRSC provides another way to return experiments from the space station. SpaceX’s Dragon resupply ship is currently the only dedicated cargo vehicle that can return research. Russia’s crewed Soyuz vehicle has limited space available for experiments when there are three astronauts aboard.

HTV-7 carried approximately 6.2 metric tons of cargo to the space station. Supplies included new ISS batteries using Japanese Lithium-Ion batteries, large experiment racks provided by NASA and ESA,  three CubeSats and fresh food

  • Robert G. Oler

    well done

  • therealdmt

    Congratulations, JAXA and Japan!

    Although this uses the cargo vessel first to get away from the station and into position for the target reentry area, I like the idea of basically being able to jettison capsules “over the side” of the ISS and have them land safely on Earth. I imagine it as a precursor to a manned spaceship that could travel to various planets and drop landing probes from orbit.

    Also, hopefully this inspires Japan to continue pressing ahead with re-entry technologies and develop a larger re-entry capsule and eventually a manned one. Maybe with the US, Russia China and then Japan in the game, that would in turn motivate even Europe to finally join in. Oh yeah, and meanwhile, India will likely be next with their own manned space flight capability