A slow uniform flow of a rarefied gas past a sphere with a uniform temperature is considered. The steady behaviour of the gas is investigated on the basis of the Boltzmann equation by a systematic asymptotic analysis for small Mach numbers in the case where the Knudsen number is finite. Introducing a slowly varying solution whose length scale of variation is much larger than the sphere dimension, the fluid-dynamic-type equations describing the overall behaviour of the gas in the far region are derived. Then, the solution in the near region which varies on the scale of the sphere size, described by the linearised Boltzmann equation, and the solution in the far region, described by the fluid-dynamic-type equations, are sought in the form of a Mach number expansion up to the second order, in a way that they are joined in the intermediate overlapping region. As a result, the drag is derived up to the second order of the Mach number, which formally extends the linear drag obtained by Takata et al. (Phys. Fluids A, vol. 5, 1993, pp. 716–737) to a weakly nonlinear case. Numerical results for the drag on the basis of the Bhatnagar–Gross–Krook (BGK) model are also presented.