A Russian cargo spacecraft has failed to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) and has backed off until the arrival of a new Japanese freighter due to arrive on Friday.

The robotic Russian ship, named Progress 47, was testing a new docking system late on Monday when it failed to hook up to the orbiting space station.

Progress 47 was already at the ISS when it undocked and moved away in order to attempt the manoeuvre.

The spacecraft, which was due to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere on 30 June, will now reportedly waiting over a mile away before making another attempt on Sunday.

"The test was proceeding normally until about the time that the new Kurs-NA rendezvous system was to be engaged," NASA officials said in a statement.

"As commands were being issued to activate the Kurs system, a failure was annunciated, triggering a passive abort."

While mission controllers await the next opportunity to run the test, a new Japanese cargo ship, the H-2 Transfer Vehicle-3 (HTV-3), is scheduled to arrive at the ISS on Friday following a successful launch from southern Japan on Friday, 20 July.

It is ferrying science projects, a new camera system, food and spare equipment to the six-man crew aboard the space station.

These unmanned spacecraft are part of an international effort to keep the ISS supplied following the withdrawal from service of the NASA space shuttle fleet.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has also developed a large unmanned cargo ship while private investors are due to launch delivery vessels later this year.

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