The US space agency NASA says a mishap has caused an automated, self-docking spacecraft to end its mission prematurely.

The craft - called DART, for the Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology - was launched Friday from California and was to link with a military satellite without the help of human controls.

NASA says the craft tracked the satellite, which is orbiting 780 kilometers above Earth, but then ended its mission within 91 meters of the satellite.

The spacecraft was also to conduct several maneuvers around the satellite during the mission that was to last 24 hours.

NASA hopes DART technology will help pave the way for automated docking and delivery of cargo to manned missions.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.