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Japan cargo vessel to return to Earth with experiment samples

In this image from video made available by NASA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kounotori H-II Transfer Vehicle approaches the International Space Station on Sept. 27, 2018. It is the seventh Japanese shipment to the station and the first in two years. (NASA via AP)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's unmanned cargo transporter is set to leave the International Space Station on Nov. 8 to bring back experiment samples to Earth, the first such mission for the country, the Japanese space agency said Thursday.

The Kounotori7 cargo vessel carrying a capsule containing protein crystals grown on the space station is expected to return to Earth around Nov. 11.

The cylindrical capsule measuring about 84 centimeters wide by about 66 cm high can transport samples that need to be kept cool. It is equipped with a vacuum insulation container developed with the help of Tigar Corp., an Osaka-based home appliance maker.

The capsule will detach from the transporter prior to entering the earth's atmosphere, and is expected to splash down near Japan's Minamitori Island in the northwestern Pacific, where it will be retrieved by a boat before being transported to Japan's mainland by plane.

The Kounotori7, named after the Japanese word for stork, transported food and other supplies to the space station. The vessel reloaded with garbage from the ISS is scheduled to burn up when it re-enters Earth's atmosphere.

At one point it was feared the mission might be delayed by a manpower shortage following the failed launch in October of a Russian Soyuz rocket carrying astronauts to the ISS.

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