Monday, August 8, 2011

Japan Envisions Crewed Flights

The HTV KOUNOTORI 2 cargo module leaves the International Space Station in March. Photo source: JAXA.

Aviation Week reports that the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has plans for a cargo module to the International Space Station that could evolve into a crew delivery vehicle by the middle of the 2020s.

First, deliver things to the International Space Station. Second, deliver things and bring things back. Finally, send people up and bring them back. That, in a nutshell, is the sequence that the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) wants to follow as it takes the first step, launching the HTV Kounotori cargo craft, and sets out its plans for the next two.

With an eye on flying a manned space mission in 2025, JAXA engineers are working on a capsule as big as SpaceX’s Dragon in their nascent program for an Earth-return cargo spacecraft. After a series of launches to the International Space Station (ISS) late this decade, the proposed HRV (HTV return vehicle) cargo capsule could be fitted with equipment to carry people, or JAXA could use it as a technology demonstrator for a specially designed spacecraft for human transportation.

The article notes that "Development is not yet funded," and the manned flights have not been approved by the Japan’s Space Activities Committee.

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