JOHNSON SPACE CENTER — The much anticipated docking of Orbital Sciences' Cygnus spacecraft with the International Space Station will be delayed a bit longer.
Cygnus was scheduled to dock at the space station on Sunday, but a glitch in the data connection between the spacecraft and computers aboard the space station led to a mandatory 48-hour delay.
After working on a software patch to fix the problem, Orbital officials had hoped to try for a rendezvous on Tuesday. But officials decided that was cutting it too close for the Wednesday scheduled launch of a Soyuz capsule that is to deliver three new crew members to the space station.
The Soyuz crew is due to arrive at the space station late Wednesday. The earliest possible date for the next Cygnus approach and rendezvous with the space station would be Saturday, Orbital and NASA officials said Monday morning.
"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," said Frank Culbertson, Orbital's executive vice president and general manager of its Advanced Programs Group. "Meanwhile, Cygnus has all the resources needed to remain in orbit for an extended period of time."
Because this is a test flight of the Cygnus, nothing valuable or urgent is on board. If necessary, it could keep orbiting the world for weeks, even months, before pulling up at the orbiting lab.
Orbital Sciences is the second private company to launch supplies to the space station.
Last year, SpaceX was the first with a successful launch of its Dragon spacecraft.
The space agency is paying the two companies to deliver goods to the space station in the absence of the now-retired space shuttles.
The Cygnus demonstration flight could lead to the company’s first full mission, which is scheduled for December. NASA has not announced which of the two companies would manage that mission.
Three astronauts — an American, Italian and Russian — currently are aboard the orbiting outpost.