Computer mishap delays space station supply ship (Update)

Sep 22, 2013 by Marcia Dunn

A brand new commercial cargo ship making its orbital debut experienced navigation system trouble Sunday, and its arrival at the International Space Station was delayed at least two days.

The rendezvous was aborted less than six hours before the scheduled arrival of Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus capsule, packed with 1,300 pounds (590 kilograms) of food and clothes for the space station crew.

The Virginia-based company said it already has developed a software repair. The new software will be tested on the ground before it is transmitted to the Cygnus and tested again. If all goes well, the capsule will make another docking attempt Tuesday morning.

Orbital Sciences said the two orbiting vessels established direct contact early Sunday, four days after the Cygnus' launch from Virginia. But the Cygnus rejected some of the data, which interrupted the entire rendezvous. Until then, everything had been going well.

The problem was traced to a difference in data format in the navigation systems of the two spacecraft, the company said. Otherwise, the Cygnus remains healthy.

Because this is a test flight of the Cygnus, nothing valuable or urgent is on board. If necessary, it could keep orbiting the world for weeks, even months, before pulling up at the orbiting lab.

Orbital Sciences is the second private company to launch supplies to the space station. In 2012, the California-based SpaceX began accomplishing that job for NASA. The space agency is paying the two companies to deliver goods to the space station, in the absence of the now-retired space shuttles.

Three astronauts—an American, Italian and Russian—currently are aboard the orbiting outpost. On Wednesday, three more crew members will be launched from Kazakhstan. Orbital Sciences will have to work around that manned flight, delaying the Cygnus further if a Tuesday hookup is not feasible.

Explore further: Image: Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

More information: Orbital Sciences Corp.: www.orbital.com/Antares-Cygnus/
NASA: www.nasa.gov/content/cygnus-re… us-delayed-48-hours/

4.2 /5 (9 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

NASA Webb's heart survives deep freeze test

7 hours ago

After 116 days of being subjected to extremely frigid temperatures like that in space, the heart of the James Webb Space Telescope, the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) and its sensitive instruments, ...

Cosmic rays threaten future deep-space astronaut missions

12 hours ago

Crewed missions to Mars remain an essential goal for NASA, but scientists are only now beginning to understand and characterize the radiation hazards that could make such ventures risky, concludes a new paper ...

MAVEN studies passing comet and its effects

14 hours ago

NASA's newest orbiter at Mars, MAVEN, took precautions to avoid harm from a dust-spewing comet that flew near Mars today and is studying the flyby's effects on the Red Planet's atmosphere.

How to safely enjoy the October 23 partial solar eclipse

14 hours ago

2014 – a year rich in eclipses. The Moon dutifully slid into Earth's shadow in April and October gifting us with two total lunars. Now it's the Sun's turn. This Thursday October 23 skywatchers across much ...

How to grip an asteroid

15 hours ago

For someone like Edward Fouad, a junior at Caltech who has always been interested in robotics and mechanical engineering, it was an ideal project: help develop robotic technology that could one day fly on ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

antialias_physorg
not rated yet Sep 23, 2013
As someone who regularly has to deal with converting data fromats from third parties: Stuff like that happens all too often. Even if every party involved thinks the format has been specified to the n-th degree.

It's vexing that it happens - and I'm sure they'll fry the software engineer on the ground for it. But even specifications are written (and reviewed) by humans. Stuff like this happens. But I'm confident they'll be able to fix this in a relatively short time. The devil's in the details in these things.