The source of black mold which contaminated cargo bags bound for the International Space Station is being investigated by NASA. Consequently the next launch of supplies for ISS has been delayed.
An unmanned Orbital ATK Cygnus craft, which had been scheduled to launch March 10 atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, now is targeting a March 22 liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, according to ULA.
The microbiological analysis during a routine inspections at Kennedy Space Center found evidence of common black mold on two bags. The space agency decided to disinfect every bag, which required removing cargo already packed in the Cygnus
It's the first time black mold has caused a problem during ISS cargo processing.
"Micro-organisms are everywhere and this type of micro-organism is not uncommon," said Dan Huot, a spokesman at NASA's Johnson Space Center, home of the ISS program. "NASA inspects, samples and disinfects cargo bags to ensure a safe environment for the crew members."
Earlier inspections had determined that the Cygnus vehicle's pressurized module was clean. The module arrived at KSC's Space Station Processing Facility last month after shipping across the Atlantic Ocean from manufacturer Thales Alenia Space's base in Italy.
Lockheed Martin is responsible for stowing ISS cargo under NASA's Cargo Mission Contract.