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Space Bug ISS NASA

Hiccup In Space: Orbital Sciences ISS Docking Delayed By Days 51

Posted by timothy
from the no-one-can-hear-a-hiccup-there-totally-proven dept.
Reuters has a quick report that "[a] software glitch will delay Orbital Sciences' trial cargo ship from reaching the International Space Station until Tuesday, officials said on Sunday. The company's Cygnus capsule, which blasted off Wednesday from Virginia for a test flight, had been scheduled to reach the station on Sunday. ... Orbital Sciences said it had found the cause of the data discrepancy and was developing a software fix. ... The next opportunity for the capsule to rendezvous and dock with the station will be on Tuesday." The WSJ has a more detailed article, and notes "The mission is a challenge for Orbital, which has invested more than five years and about $500 million of its own funds to develop a commercial-cargo capability. But it also presents a dramatic test of NASA's plans to outsource to industry all U.S. resupply missions to the space station. The agency has paid Orbital about $285 million to spur development of the Cygnus and Antares rocket system."
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Hiccup In Space: Orbital Sciences ISS Docking Delayed By Days

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  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @12:39PM (#44918207) Homepage

    Not much else to add except that the linked WSJ article seemed rather... well... brief (available to subscribers only)

    • Not much else to add except that the linked WSJ article seemed rather... well... brief

      Not many of the people who pay to subscribe to the WSJ could follow more than a brief overview article.

  • Wow (Score:1, Redundant)

    by fermion (181285)
    Company makes a significant error and jeopardizes it's own investment, not to mention hundred of millions of taxpayer funds. Not that NASA does not make mistakes, but some companies will not survive the initial shake out because they make too many mistakes.

    As others have said, this is rocket science, and rocket science has the reputation it does for a reason.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      jeopardizes ... hundred of millions of taxpayer funds.

      Bring the main hyperbole cannon on line! Maybe you could dial back the rhetoric to 11.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

      by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@@@netzero...net> on Sunday September 22, 2013 @02:28PM (#44918719) Homepage Journal

      As others have said, this is rocket science, and rocket science has the reputation it does for a reason.

      Building something that gets into orbit successfully, much less performing a rendezvous with another object already in orbit, is something that has such a thin margin of error that almost anything can prevent success and a whole lot of things can cause a failure.

      I see this more as a glass is half-full kind of thing where it is just freaking amazing that Orbital has been able to get this far and even get near the ISS, much less be in a position to actually dock. Not only that, but this is the very first time that this launch vehicle + spacecraft has done something like this. And you expect it to be perfect on the very first try?

      The cargo itself isn't all that valuable BTW, so "hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds" are not on the line. Orbital is only going to be paid for cargo delivered, although NASA did send them some money earlier for meeting previous manufacturing objectives. It should also be pointed out that Orbital wasn't even the original contractor [wikipedia.org] who was supposed to be taking cargo into space, but rather Kistler Aerospace [wikipedia.org]. NASA justifiably dumped that service contract and awarded it instead to Orbital after some pretty stiff competition from some other very worthy alternatives.

      If anything, it sure is a heck of a lot cheaper in terms of the few hundred million dumped into the COTS program than the tens of billions that have been wasted on Constellation and SLS, where there has yet to be anything even close to flying. Those were both programs that were supposed to be operational before the Space Shuttle flights ended, but instead won't even be considered for an initial flight before 2017, and likely will be delayed well past 2020. Without this program, the $100+ billion dumped on the ISS would be wasted because the ISS would have to be splashed by now. That 1000x difference in orders of magnitude for these programs really makes the amount spent by NASA on Orbital to be real chump change and insignificant, especially with the results that have already been earned by Orbital.

      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@@@netzero...net> on Sunday September 22, 2013 @02:54PM (#44918843) Homepage Journal

        I should add that the items in the Cygnus spacecraft [orbital.com] is mainly a bunch of food, what amounts to be toilet paper for the sanitary facilities in the ISS, personal items for the astronauts on this and future missions, and a new computer printer to replace one that broke down on board the station as well as some minor spare parts needed for station maintenance.

        You would be hard pressed to find this whole load of cargo to be worth more than a hundred thousand dollars, although its value is important for the people on the ISS and the fact that it is so expensive to haul anything up to that altitude. Hopefully a competitive cargo delivery service can improve that cost as an issue.

  • by tlambert (566799) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @01:20PM (#44918371)

    "We have the glitch fixed!"

    "Outstanding! Resume ramming speed!"

  • It's not a software bug, it's a "data discrepancy" that software will "fix".
  • No doubt this is a result of the extended downtime on the forums. They need to download the latest MechJeb and they can't until the forums are back online...
  • "Orbital Sciences Corporation is an American company which specializes in the manufacturing and launch of satellites. Its Launch Systems Group is heavily involved with missile defense launch systems"
    • by Teancum (67324)

      So a company who is launching satellites for the military is also delivering cargo to the International Space Station. Did I miss something?

      Or do you really think that the ISS is a part of some global conspiracy to conquer the Earth?

      • by stoploss (2842505)

        So a company who is launching satellites for the military is also delivering cargo to the International Space Station. Did I miss something?

        Or do you really think that the ISS is a part of some global conspiracy to conquer the Earth?

        I think what djupedal is saying is, why conquer the Earth when you can hold the nations hostage and demand ONE... MILLION... DOLLARS?

    • by fuzzywig (208937)
      Pretty much every space launch company in the US does work for the DoD/NRO if they can. Military contracts are where the big money is.
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @02:53PM (#44918841) Homepage

    There's a data link between the ISS and docking vehicles. A new version of that was developed recently. [businesswire.com] Here's the presentation on that. [nasaspaceflight.com] But it doesn't seem to be operational yet. NASA has been talking about the new C2V2 system for years, and commercial spacecraft were supposed to be designed to use it. But it's not ready yet.

    So Space-X and Orbital Sciences had to also develop a temporary capability to use the old automated docking system, which, I think, is derived from the Soviet-era Kursk system.

  • Hahahaha (Score:5, Interesting)

    by porcinist (1847634) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @04:53PM (#44919651)
    I worked on this program a few years ago. This doesn't shock me at all. It was a clusterfuck from beginning to end. OSC managers had no clue how to do software development on this kind of program. OSC is mostly a testament to value of lobbying over competence. This is also in line with how things have gone with: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbiting_Carbon_Observatory [wikipedia.org] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glory_(satellite) [wikipedia.org] Here is the really good one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DART_(satellite) [wikipedia.org] Orbital science crashed two satellites trying something almost identical in 2005!
  • It took them time to get it all in one bag and shit still goes wrong the nature of infant space voyages.

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