Kounotori launched atop a Japanese H-2B rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan on July 20. It is the third such vehicle launched from Japan, following the flights of HTVs 1 and 2 in September 2009 and January 2011, respectively. [Photos: Japan Launches 3rd Robotic Supply Ship to Space Station]
The spaceship is loaded with 4 tons (3,600 kg) of cargo, including care packages with food, clothing and other items for the space station's crew. The vehicle, which is 33 feet (10 m) long and 13 feet (4 m) wide, is also carrying a camera called the ISERV (International Space Station SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System).
The camera is to be installed on the station, for use by ground-based scientists who can manipulate it via remote control. The system is intended for studies of natural disaster sites and environmental issues on Earth.
Two student-designed experiments are also packed aboard Kounotori 3. These projects won the YouTube Space Lab competition, which allowed students between the ages of 14 and 18 to envision space station experiments and describe them in videos submitted to YouTube. The winners were chosen by public voting.
Amr Mohamed, 18, of Alexandria, Egypt, and Dorothy Chen and Sara Ma, both 16, of Troy, Mich., came out on top, with experiments investigating how microgravity affects the hunting strategy of zebra spiders, and how different nutrients and compounds affect the growth and virulence of bacteria grown in space, respectively.