WASHINGTON — An unmanned A NASA spacecraft designed to track and link with other orbiting craft failed to rendezvous with a U.S. military satellite 475 miles above the Earth, NASA said Saturday.
The 500-pound Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology craft experienced a mishap in orbit late Friday that caused it to divert its path, NASA said.
The DART craft, 6 feet long and 3 feet in diameter, was supposed to maneuver within 16 feet of the military communications satellite, a NASA spokeswoman said.
The spacecraft came within 300 feet of its target.
The craft, launched Friday from an aircraft from Vandenberg Air Force Base as part of a $110-million mission, was designed to test technology to track and dock with other craft without human guidance or intervention, allowing future craft to carry cargo to orbiting space stations or repair disabled satellites.
The DART craft, built by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Virginia, "placed itself in the retirement phase before completing all planned proximity operations, ending the mission prematurely," NASA said.
NASA will convene a board to investigate the reason for the mishap, the agency said.
Orbital Sciences was not immediately available for comment.
NASA said the DART program accomplished some key goals during its mission, meant to last 24 hours. It tracked and approached the satellite.
The craft will enter an unstable orbit and burn up within 25 years, NASA said.