Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Soyuz Launch Causes New Delay to Cygnus Spacecraft Docking with Space Station

The Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus commercial cargo craft lifts off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's Launch Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Credit: NASA

Managers from Orbital Sciences and NASA decided Monday morning to postpone the approach, rendezvous, grapple and berthing operations of Orbital's Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft with the International Space Station to no earlier than Saturday, Sept. 28. Cygnus' rendezvous now will follow the launch and arrival of three crew members of Expedition 37/38 on Wednesday, Sept. 25. Michael Hopkins of NASA and Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) will depart from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:58 p.m. EDT and arrive at the space station at 10:47 p.m.

Orbital has confirmed that over the past 24 hours, the Orbital team developed and tested a software fix for the data format mismatch that necessitated a postponement of the first rendezvous operation that was scheduled for the early morning of Sunday, Sept. 22. However, that process, together with the impending Soyuz crew operations, resulted in a tight schedule to the point that both Orbital and NASA felt it was the right decision to postpone the Cygnus approach and rendezvous until after Soyuz operations.

“Orbital and NASA felt it was the right decision to postpone the Cygnus approach and rendezvous until after Soyuz operations,” Virginia-based Orbital said in a statement.

Cygnus was initially supposed to dock with the space station on Sunday to deliver some 1,300 pounds (589 kilograms) of cargo, but that rendezvous was delayed for at least 48 hours following a software glitch, Orbital said.

Orbital developed a fix for the glitch but with around 48 hours needed to implement the repair and resume Cygnus’ approach to the ISS, and with the Soyuz mission looming, the company and NASA deemed the schedule to be too tight and opted to postpone the cargo ship’s docking maneuvers until Saturday at the earliest.

Cygnus, which launched on Wednesday from Wallop’s Island in Virginia on board an Antares rocket developed by Orbital, has “all the resources needed to remain in orbit for an extended period of time," Orbital Executive vice President Frank Culbertson said.

Orbital Sciences was selected in 2008 to work with NASA on the space agency’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, which helps US companies develop privately operated, cost-effective and safe space transportation systems.

Credit: NASARIA Novosti

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