Soyuz capsule nears the space station.
Three new crewmembers reached the International Space Station on Thursday, two days later than planned after their Soyuz capsule automatically aborted a steering maneuver needed to reach the outpost on Tuesday.
Russia had been using a fast-track, six-hour flight path to the station for a year without incident until Tuesday when a slight misalignment of the Soyuz capsule triggered its computers to cancel a necessary engine burn.
Preliminary analysis shows the Soyuz’s orientation was off by 1 degree, said NASA mission commentator Rob Navias, enough to cancel the steering maneuver and cause the spacecraft to revert to its backup rendezvous slot on Thursday.
Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronaut Steven Swanson lifted off at 5:17 p.m. EDT on Tuesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and expected to reach the station six hours later.
Instead, their Soyuz capsule reached the station at 7:53 p.m. EDT on Thursday.
“Better late than never,” said Navias, as the Soyuz was making its final approach.
Skvortsov, Artemyev and Swanson are slated to spend the next six months aboard the station. They join commander Koichi Wakata and flight engineers Rick Mastracchio and Mikhail Tyurin, who arrived in November.(Mar 27, 2014 11:24 PM ET // by Irene Klotz)