The Yomiuri ShimbunThe Kounotori 7 unmanned cargo transfer spacecraft detached from the International Space Station on Thursday, carrying a capsule of test samples that will be ejected from the spacecraft for a journey back to Earth.
The small return capsule was developed to bring test samples from the ISS back to the Earth. It is expected to enter the atmosphere and land early Sunday in waters off Minamitorishima island, one of the Ogasawara Islands under Tokyo’s jurisdiction.
Should the test samples be collected successfully, Japan will have secured the technology necessary to carry loads back and forth between the Earth and the ISS.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency developed the cylindrical capsule, which weighs about 180 kilograms. It can hold up to 20 kilograms of supplies and withstand high temperatures.
The Kounotori 7 arrived at the ISS in late September. It left carrying the capsule at about 1:50 a.m. on Thursday.
The capsule is to be detached from the Kounotori 7 at an altitude of about 300 kilometers, and enter the atmosphere at a height of about 100 kilometers over the Noto Peninsula. The Kounotori will burn up in the atmosphere.
The capsule is carrying protein crystals that were created in an experiment on the ISS. The protein crystals are expected to be useful in developing new medicines.