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Japan launches rocket carrying vessel for Int'l Space Station

An H-2B rocket carrying the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's unmanned supply vessel Kounotori8 bound for the International Space Station is launched from Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, on Sept. 25, 2019. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan launched a rocket with an unmanned spacecraft bound for the International Space Station on Wednesday after a fire thwarted its planned launch earlier this month.

The H-2B rocket of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. carrying the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's supply vessel Kounotori8 was launched at 1:05 a.m. from Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, and entered the scheduled orbit about 15 minutes later.

The vessel, named with the Japanese word for "white stork," will deliver about 5.3 tons of supplies to astronauts at the International Space Station, including food and water as well as batteries and devices needed for experiments, according to the space agency.

The vessel is expected to reach the ISS on Saturday.

Mitsubishi Heavy had put off the originally scheduled launch on Sept. 11 after a fire was detected at the launch pad.

A high concentration of liquid oxygen, used as rocket engine coolant, was determined to have caused the fire that broke out about three hours before the intended launch, an official close to the matter has said.

The company had planned to launch the rocket on Tuesday, but again postponed until Wednesday to prevent the separated stage of the rocket from getting close to Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to be launched the same day.

The roughly two-week delay did not affect operations at the ISS as it stores enough provisions for such circumstances.

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