Cygnus spacecraft docking with space station delayed

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The Cygnus spacecraft’s scheduled rendezvous with the International Space Station has been delayed until at least Saturday, Orbital Sciences Corp. and NASA announced Monday.

The unmanned commercial cargo craft made it’s approach to the ISS as scheduled early Sunday morning but an data glitch issue was encountered.

Orbital official Barron Beneski told The Daily Press that the issue was not “overly complicated” and that a software patch has been developed to fix the problem.

According to NASA, the minimum turnaround time for a new approach is 48 hours because of the “orbital mechanics of the approach trajectory.”

The Cygnus was then scheduled to berth on Tuesday, but NASA and Orbital decided to postpone the approach, rendezvous and berthing until after the Soyuz crew arrives on Wednesday.

The earliest possible date for the next Cygnus approach and rendezvous with the ISS would be Saturday, September 28.

“This new schedule will allow the Orbital operations team to carefully plan and be well-rested before restarting the critical final approach to the space station. Meanwhile, Cygnus has all the resources needed to remain in orbit for an extended period of time,” said Mr. Frank Culbertson, Orbital’s Executive Vice President and General Manager of its Advanced Programs Group.

Once the Cygnus berths, it will offload about 1,300 pounds of food, clothing, tools and other non-essentials, then load up disposable cargo. After 30 days, it will make a short return trip to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere over the Pacific.

Orbital has a $1.9 billion NASA contract to make eight resupply missions to the ISS through 2016.

These missions will all launch from the Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore.

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