Japanese rocket blasts off with batteries for space station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A Japanese rocket has blasted off with powerful new batteries for the International Space Station.

Tuesday’s launch in southern Japan came two weeks after a launch pad fire halted the first countdown. Japanese officials blamed the fire on static electricity and oxygen propellant.

The 4-ton shipment should arrive at the space station Saturday. Spacewalking astronauts will install the six new lithium-ion batteries later this year, replacing old-style batteries. The cargo ship is named Kounotori, Japanese for white stork.

The Japanese Space Agency is one of several organizations making periodic station deliveries. Russia sends up supplies, as do SpaceX and Northrop Grumman on NASA’s behalf.

Russia plans to launch three astronauts to the space station Thursday, including the first person from the United Arab Emirates bound for orbit.

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