Japan launched a rocket carrying cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) on January 22, at 2:30 p.m from the Tanegashima Space Center. The cargo carrier called the Kounotori 2 (Stork 2) is taking 6 tones of water, food, clothing, batteries and research material.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) reported that the unmanned cargo vehicle called Kounotori or HTV measures 10 meters in length, 4.5 meters in maximum diameter and has a total mass of 16.5 tons. Currently in addition to Japan's HTV, the U.S. Space Shuttle and Russian Progress and ESA's ATV also serve as ISS cargo spacecraft.

The HTV is the only vehicle designed to deliver the materials used onboard and outboard the ISS, besides the Space Shuttle. The cargo transporter is due to berth with the ISS on January 28, 2011. The launch vehicle used is called the H-IIB.

After the vehicle is released in the orbit, the HTV will use a GPS system and Rendezvous Laser Radar to approach ISS for docking.

The H-IIB is the largest rocket in Japan, primarily developed for launching the cargo vehicle Kounotori. The first H-IIB was launched in September 2009, with Kounotori, which was a demonstration flight of the HTV, which is a mainly cargo carrier.

According to NASA, also in the fray is a launch of supplies for the ISS by the Russian Federal Space Agency, the 41st Progress re-supply mission. The Progress 41 is scheduled to be launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The payload will include 1,918 pounds of propellants, 110 pounds of oxygen, 926 pounds of water, and 3,080 pounds of dry cargo. After this, Russia will send another cargo carrier called Progress 42.

Once the Progress 42 is retired, the European carrier ATV 2 codenamed Johannes Kepler -the size of aLondon double-decker bus- will be carrying seven tons of cargo. Johannes Kepler will carry about 3,000 pounds of NASA cargo and 600 pounds of ESA cargo. The cargo will also include 210 pounds of research equipment and supplies, 1,300 pounds of hardware components and spare parts, 1,400 pounds of crew supplies, 100 pounds of laptop computers and related supplies, and 60 pounds of spacewalk equipment. The ATV2 will carry 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of gaseous oxygen and fuel as well.

The Japanese launch comes just days after the Delta IV Heavy - the largest ever rocket - was launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, carrying a national security payload for National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).