Unmanned Japan craft launched toward space station: operator

Tokyo (AFP) –

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Japan early Wednesday launched an unmanned spacecraft towards the International Space Station, the operator said, after a fire early this month delayed the mission.

The H-2B rocket lifted off at 1:05 am local time (1605 GMT Tuesday) with cargo vessel Kounotori8, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said on its website.

The launch took place from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan.

"As planned, the payload separated from the launch vehicle" about 15 minutes later, Mitsubishi Heavy said.

A pre-dawn fire on September 11 delayed the launch from Tanegashima island. Japanese news agencies linked the fire to liquid oxygen.

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.

Japan's space agency, JAXA, touts the Kounotori8 as "the world's biggest transport space ship" in a promotional movie on its website.

Japan has launched other cargo missions to the ISS over the past decade.