In a cosmic game of fetch, Japan’s space agency will attempt to retrieve a 180-kilogram capsule from the sea that will be released into the atmosphere by a cargo vessel heading to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS).
The Kounotori 7 (HTV7) unmanned cargo craft that carried supplies to the ISS in September left the space station on Nov. 8, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said the same day.
The insulated capsule inside, which contains results of scientific experiments, is supposed to survive the fiery re-entry and be jettisoned at an altitude of 300 kilometers early Nov. 11.
The capsule is designed to maintain its orientation while descending, and parachute down to the Pacific Ocean off the Ogasawara Islands’ Minami-Torishima island, where it will be collected by boat.
It is the first time for JAXA to perform such a retrieval.
The agency has previously relied on U.S. or Russian spaceships to bring back results of experiments.
By performing the maneuver itself, JAXA said it will save on costs and time.
The capsule, shaped like a cone with its top cut off, measures 84 centimeters in diameter at its widest point, and is about 66 cm high.
The thermos-like structure is filled with crystals of proteins created on the ISS and other results of experiments. Thanks to the capsule’s insulating ability, it can maintain a temperature of 4 degrees, even during re-entry.