February 22, 2017 / 1:07 PM / 3 years ago

GPS glitch delays SpaceX cargo ship docking at space station

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off on a supply mission to the International Space Station from historic launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 19, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - SpaceX called off the docking of a Dragon cargo ship at the International Space Station on Wednesday due to a problem with the capsule’s GPS navigation system, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.

The cargo ship, which blasted off on Sunday from a historic launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will make a second attempt to reach the station on Thursday.

The capsule is carrying more than 5,500 pounds (2,500 kg) of supplies and science experiments for the station.

“The spacecraft is in excellent shape with no issues, and the crew aboard the space station is safe,” NASA wrote in a status report.

Wednesday’s rendezvous with the station, a $100 billion research laboratory that flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, was aborted at 3:25 a.m. EST (0825 GMT) when computers aboard the cargo ship detected an error in its GPS navigation system, said NASA mission commentator Rob Navias.

“At no time was the station or the crew in any danger,” Navias said during NASA TV coverage of the planned docking. “Dragon did exactly what it was supposed to do and broke out of its approach.”

SpaceX Dragon cargo ships have successfully reached the station 10 times. The company, owned and operated by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, is one of two hired by NASA to fly cargo to the station after the space shuttles were retired in 2011. Russia and Japan also fly cargo ships to the station.

A Dragon docking on Thursday means the station’s six-member crew will be juggling the arrival of two cargo ships within 24 hours.

A Russian Progress capsule, carrying almost 6,000 pounds (2,722 kg) of cargo, blasted off at 12:58 a.m. EST (0558 GMT) on Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Russian ship is due to reach the station at 3:34 a.m. EST (0834) GMT on Friday.

Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn

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