Software glitch postpones Cygnus rendezvous with space station

Resupply mission reset for Saturday

The rendezvous and docking of a commercial cargo spacecraft with the International Space Station was rescheduled for Saturday at the earliest after a software glitch prevented the docking over the weekend.

Orbital Sciences' Cygnus spacecraft launched on Wednesday from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia. It was set to rendezvous with the space station, which flies about 260 miles above Earth, on Sunday.

The planned rendezvous was postponed, however, after engineers discovered a data format mismatch between an onboard space station navigation system and a similar system on Cygnus. The Orbital Sciences team developed a software fix for the problem, which was tested on a ground-based simulator on Sunday.

Orbital Sciences tweeted, "#Cygnus rendezvous with @ISS_research waived off for 48 hours due date link issue between the spacecraft and station."

A patch was uploaded between Sunday night and Monday morning.

While the problem has a fix, Cygnus' rendezvous with the station is being pushed to the weekend at the earliest so it doesn't interfere with the planned arrival of three new space station crew members on Wednesday.

"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," said Frank Culbertson, Orbital's executive vice president. "Meanwhile, Cygnus has all the resources needed to remain in orbit for an extended period of time."

Loaded with 1,300 pounds of supplies, including food and clothes for the astronauts, Cygnus is part of the second commercial operation to launch a resupply mission to the space station.

In May, another company, SpaceX, became the first commercial venture to launch a spacecraft that docked with the space station. The company launched its own test flight in 2012 and was approved to run regular resupply missions.

If all goes well for Orbital Sciences, based in Dulles, Va., it should be similarly approved.

Now that the long-running space shuttle fleet is retired, NASA is dependent on a young commercial space industry to ferry supplies and eventually astronauts, to the space station.

The three new space station crew members, NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins, and Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy of the Russian Federal Space Agency, are set to lift off aboard a Soyuz rocket Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:58 p.m. ET and arrive at the space station at 10:47 p.m.

This article, Software glitch postpones Cygnus rendezvous with space station , was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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