JOHNSON SPACE CENTER — A software glitch postponed the docking of Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus spacecraft with the International Space Station on Sunday.
Problems with data communications between the spacecraft and the space station forced an abort of the docking for at least 48 hours.
Orbital Sciences confirmed at about 12:30 a.m. on Sunday the Cygnus spacecraft established direct data contact with the International Space Station and found that some of the data received had values that it did not expect, causing Cygnus to reject the data.
It was the first glitch in the mission that had been going smoothly since the capsule launched atop an Antares rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility off Virginia’s eastern coast Wednesday.
Officials with Orbital said they found the causes of the data discrepancy and were working on a software fix.
Cygnus was scheduled to dock at the space station with the help of the station’s, Canadarm2, the 57-foot robotic arm that is maneuvered by astronauts on board.
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.
However, a part of the cargo includes some key backup parts for cameras aboard the space station.
“A software update has been developed and will be tested on a ground-based simulator during the day on Sunday,” Orbital Sciences officials said in a posting on the company’s Web site Sunday. “Upload to Cygnus and in-orbit testing of the software patch is planned for Sunday night and into (this) morning.
“The Cygnus spacecraft remains healthy, with all major subsystems operating as expected.”
Orbital Sciences is the second private company to launch supplies to the space station.
Last year, SpaceX was the first with a successful launch of its Dragon spacecraft.
The space agency is paying the two companies to deliver goods to the space station in the absence of the now-retired space shuttles.
The Cygnus demonstration flight could lead to the company’s first full mission, which is scheduled for December. NASA has not announced which of the two companies would manage that mission.
Three astronauts — an American, Italian and Russian — currently are aboard the orbiting outpost.
On Wednesday, three more crew members are schedule to launch from Kazakhstan.
Orbital Sciences will have to work around that manned flight, delaying the Cygnus further if a Tuesday hookup doesn’t happen.
Cygnus to Space Station updates: http://tinyurl.com/q7ayqwz