Orbital, NASA Delay ISS Docking Of Cygnus Until At Least Saturday
September 27, 2013

Orbital, NASA Delay ISS Docking Of Cygnus Until Sunday

UPDATE: Friday 1:40PM Central:

NASA and its International Space Station partners have approved a Sunday, Sept. 29, target arrival of Orbital Sciences' Cygnus spacecraft on its demonstration cargo resupply mission to the space station.

NASA Television coverage of the rendezvous will begin at 4:30 a.m. EDT and will continue through the capture and installation of the Cygnus spacecraft.


[ Watch the Video: Cygnus Rendezvous With The ISS Postponed ]

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Things are going to get a little crowded around the International Space Station (ISS) at the end of this week, as Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus spacecraft rendezvous with the orbiting laboratory has been postponed for several days.

Orbital and NASA announced that the Cygnus resupply spacecraft, launched last week, will not be making its approach, rendezvous, grapple and berthing with the space station until Saturday at the earliest. The rendezvous was originally scheduled for this past weekend, but the new commercially-developed spacecraft did not pass tests before being given the green light to dock with the Space Station.

Before any new cargo craft can approach the ISS, it must meet a set of objectives to prove its capabilities before it is finally captured or docked. The resupply craft is followed closely by mission controllers on its way to the station, and once it reaches a certain point the flight director polls mission controllers before giving the "go/no-go" decision to proceed.

Orbital said that it has developed and tested a software fix for the data format mismatch that necessitated a postponement for the first rendezvous operation that was scheduled for early Sunday morning. However, even with a software fix on the books, Cygnus will now have to wait for the new trio of Expedition 37/38 to arrive at and dock with the ISS.

Michael Hopkins of NASA and Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) will be launching aboard a Soyuz on Wednesday, with an arrival at the space station scheduled six hours after launch.

As Cygnus meets its demonstration objectives and moves closer to the space station, Expedition 37 Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano and Karen Nyberg will be watching and working alongside Mission Control to determine whether or not the new cargo craft can dock with the orbiting laboratory.

When Cygnus meets its final demonstration objectives of pointing a tracking laser at a reflector on the Kibo laboratory, it will be moving its capture point about 30-feet closer to the station. After this, its thrusters will turn off and the resupply craft will operate in free drift.

Once station members capture Cygnus, they will be attaching it to the Harmony node, where the crew will be unloading cargo from the spacecraft. If this mission is deemed successful, Orbital will begin conducting eight planned cargo resupply flights to the space station through NASA's $1.9 billion contract with the company.