An unmanned spacecraft was launched by Japan towards the International Space Station on Wednesday. The mission was initially scheduled for earlier this month, but officials scrubbed it after a fire broke out on the launch platform a few hours before launch. The unpiloted H-II Transport Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) soared into space at 12:05 p.m. EDT Tuesday (1605 GMT or 1:05 a.m. Sept. 25 in Japan). The cargo ship hefted more than 4 tons of supplies, as well as batteries and a prototype laser-communications system, from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan.
The mission was launched from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan.
The fire which delayed the launch was likely ignited by static electricity generated when liquid oxygen from the rocket came into contact with heat-resistant material on the launchpad, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), the prime contractor for the Japanese H-IIB rocket was quoted as saying.
This time, the material was covered with aluminum sheets to prevent a recurrence, NHK said.
Kounotori8, meaning "white stork" in Japanese, intends to deliver about 5.3 tonnes of supplies to astronauts at the ISS, including fresh food and water as well as batteries and devices needed for experiments.
In a promotional movie on its website Japan's space agency, JAXA, touts the Kounotori8 as "the world's biggest transport space ship".
Japan has launched other cargo missions to the ISS over the past decade.