Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus capsule delays docking

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Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus space capsule will delay docking with the International Space Station (ISS) for several days because of a data format mismatch.

“Cygnus established direct data contact with the ISS and found that some of the data received had values that it did not expect, causing Cygnus to reject the data. This mandated an interruption of the approach sequence,” says Orbital Sciences.

The company has developed a software patch that should solve the mismatch, but the scheduled docking has been delayed from 23 September to 28 September to allow for a Soyuz supply capsule to make its routine docking.

“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,” says Frank Culbertson, Orbital’s executive vice-president.

The uncrewed capsule was launched on 17 September from Wallops Island, Virginia. It is due to become the second privately-built and launched capsule to dock with the ISS, following SpaceX’s Dragon. NASA has contracted eight commercial resupply flights to the ISS using Cygnus, which will begin following a successful rendezvous on the current flight.