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The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has been working on the design since the early 1990s. The first mission, HTV-1, was originally intended to be launched in 2001. It launched at 17:01 UTC on 10 September 2009 on an H-IIB launch vehicle.
The name Kounotori was chosen for the HTV by JAXA because "a white stork carries an image of conveying an important thing (a baby, happiness, and other joyful things), therefore, it precisely expresses the HTV's mission to transport essential materials to the ISS".
As of 2010, JAXA is planning to add a return capsule option. HTV's Pressurized Cargo is replaced by a reentry module capable of returning 1.6 tonne cargo from ISS to Earth.
It is expected to be launched by 2018.
Further, it is expected to be followed on by 2022 by capsules which accommodate a crew of three and carry up to 880 pounds (400 kilograms) of cargo.