NASA and SpaceX had to call off today’s planned arrival of a robotic Dragon cargo spaceship at the International Space Station today due to a navigational glitch.
“Dragon’s onboard computers triggered the abort after recognizing an incorrect value in navigational data about the location of Dragon relative to the space station,” NASA said in an online update. “Flight controllers immediately began planning for a second rendezvous attempt on Thursday, Feb. 23.”
SpaceX said its commercial cargo transport ship was “in good health,” and NASA said the space station’s crew was in good shape as well. One of the crew members, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, tweeted some consoling words about the wave-off:
As a pilot it is sometimes better to accelerate and circle around than attempt a difficult landing. Same in space – we'll be ready tomorrow! https://t.co/IdI5UakuVx
— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) February 22, 2017
The Dragon is carrying almost 5,500 pounds of supplies and scientific experiments – mostly experiments – for the station and its six-member crew. One of the biggest payloads is an apparatus called SAGE III, which will be mounted on the station’s exterior to study Earth’s atmosphere from above.
SpaceX launched the Dragon atop a Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday, marking the first-ever commercial liftoff from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. That same launch pad served as the origination point for most of NASA’s Apollo moon missions and space shuttle flights. After the shuttle fleet’s retirement in 2011, SpaceX won a 20-year lease agreement from NASA and refurbished Pad 39A for its own use.
The Dragon isn’t the only robotic cargo craft due to arrive at the station this week: Russia’s space agency launched a Progress spaceship from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan just hours before the Dragon’s rendezvous attempt.
The Progress is carrying another 5,400 pounds of fuel and supplies to the station. It’s scheduled to hook up to a different port on the space station early Friday.