CAPE CANAVERAL — A brand-new commercial cargo ship making its orbital debut experienced trouble with a computer data link Sunday, and its arrival at the international space station was delayed at least two days.
The rendezvous was aborted less than six hours before the scheduled arrival of Orbital Sciences’s Cygnus capsule, packed with 1,300 pounds of food and clothes for the space station’s crew. The Dulles-based company said that it was working on a software repair but that it would be at least two days until another approach is attempted.
Orbital Sciences said the two orbiting vessels established direct contact early Sunday, four days after the Cygnus spacecraft’s launch from Wallops Island on Virginia’s coast. But the Cygnus capsule rejected some of the data, which interrupted the entire rendezvous. Until then, everything had been going well.
Because this is a test flight of the Cygnus craft, 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. In 2012, California-based SpaceX began accomplishing that job for NASA. The space agency is paying the two companies to deliver goods to the space station in the absence of the now-retired space shuttles.
Three astronauts — an American, an Italian and a Russian — are aboard the orbiting outpost. On Wednesday, three more crew members will be launched from Kazakhstan. Orbital Sciences will have to work around that manned flight, delaying the Cygnus mission further if a Tuesday hookup is not feasible.