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Space Bug ISS NASA

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

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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  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

    by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n ... minus physicist> 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, Informative)

    by alexander_686 (957440) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @03:34PM (#44919087)

    Well, this is a test run. As such nothing critical is on board. The first Dragon payload was the same thing – low priority stuff that would not be missed in case of failure.

  • by gl4ss (559668) on Sunday September 22, 2013 @06:16PM (#44920069) Homepage Journal

    iirc OS capsule just goes close enough and then they dock it with the robot arm.

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