A Russian cargo ship experimenting with a new type of autopilot failed to dock with the International Space Station on Tuesday.
Russian officials said the malfunction should not be considered a serious setback. The ship that malfunctioned had already docked with the station to unload supplies. It decoupled on Monday and backed off to try out the new autopilot, which has smaller hardware and is supposed to be more accurate.
But the glitch recalled the near-destruction of the Mir space station and the threat to its crew in 1997. Then, a Progress craft, experimenting with a remote-control approach, bumped into the module and ripped open a hole in the station's skin.
In the new case, there was no threat of a collision. The spaceship, a workhorse called Progress-M, was 100 miles away when the autopilot failed, the Russian space agency said. Controllers backed the vessel 300 miles from the station, and it will try to dock again on Sunday.
"Failures and mishaps of all sorts are just par for the course in the creation of new equipment," said Aleksandr Zheleznyakov, a scientist with the Federation of Russian Cosmonautics.
NEW YORK TIMES