A SpaceX capsule carrying more than 5,000 pounds of cargo aborted its attempt to dock at the International Space Station early Wednesday because of an "easily correctable" GPS error, officials said. It is scheduled to try again Thursday.
This was not the mission's first small delay. Hawthorne-based SpaceX scuttled its planned launch Saturday because of a potential issue with the Falcon 9 rocket meant to propel the Dragon capsule into space.
The Dragon spacecraft, which launched Sunday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, was en route to the space station to deliver supplies and research materials, including biological materials to be grown in crystals in space and an instrument that would survey Earth's upper atmosphere, according to a NASA blog post.
The Dragon was about seven-tenths of a mile below the space station, heading toward its final approach for "grapple" — capture by a robotic arm — when, at about 12:25 a.m. Pacific time, its onboard computers automatically triggered an abort, NASA spokesman Rob Navias said on NASA TV. That sent it on a path around the space station and set it up to make another attempt in 24 hours, Navias said.
The abort was the result of an error detected in Dragon's GPS, which tells the spacecraft's computers where it is in relation to the space station, Navias said. He said the Dragon "did exactly what it was designed to do, breaking out of its rendezvous approach when it saw an incorrect value."
NASA representatives did not provide any additional information about the source of that incorrect value, but Navias said it was "an easily correctable issue."
SpaceX — which is led by Elon Musk and whose full name is Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — said on Twitter that the Dragon was in good health and would try again Thursday morning.
Navias said that neither the space station's crew station nor the Dragon's cargo were in any danger.