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ExoLance
Orbital Express suffers anomaly
Posted: Thu, May 17, 2007, 5:29 AM ET (0929 GMT)
Orbital Express illustration (DARPA) A pair of spacecraft launched earlier this year to test satellite servicing technologies are drifting apart from one another after suffering a computer problem. The Orbital Express mission, launched in March, consists of a pair of satellites, NextSat and ASTRO, designed to autonomously rendezvous and dock with each other and test the ability to service spacecraft in orbit. After several earlier, successful tests, the two spacecraft drifted apart last week after ASTRO suffered a problem with a flight computer and moved away from NextSat to avoid a potential collision. Satellite watchers have noticed that the two spacecraft are now as much as five kilometers apart. Project officials said while they're uncertain of the root cause of the problem, they plan to bring the two spacecraft closer together soon, using a backup flight computer on ASTRO.
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