NASA's Space Robot Repairmen Makes More Strides
June 30, 2012

NASA’s Space Robot Repairmen Makes More Strides

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

NASA announced on Thursday that it completed another successful round of Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) operations on the International Space Station.

The mission, which is a joint effort between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), is on track for a refueling demonstration in late summer 2012.

RRM is an external station experiment designed to demonstrate the technologies, tools, and techniques needed to robotically repair and refuel satellites in orbit.

Results from the mission are helping to reduce the risks associated with satellite servicing and bolstering for future robotic servicing missions.

“Now that these tasks are complete, our eyes are now set on the RRM refueling demonstration and the eventual benefits that it will bring to the aerospace industry,” Benjamin Reed, deputy project manager of the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said.

Repair and refueling technologies similar to the ones demonstrated by RRM could be used to extend the lifespan of existing satellites, support the assembly of large structures in orbit and mitigate orbital debris.

“Every year, functional satellites providing weather, communications, and other essential services are retired because they have reached the end of their fuel supply,” said Reed. “We envision a future where refueling services extend the lifespan of these satellites and increase capacity for users and consumers. RRM is designed to prove this robotic refueling technology, and we are looking forward to practicing this task in late summer 2012.”

The recent RRM Gas Fittings Removal task took place on June 19 through June 22. NASA said the task represents the second on-orbit use of the RRM tools.

During the task, robot operators remotely controlled Dextre to retrieve the RRM Multifunction Tool. They executed the tasks required to remove representative fittings found on many spacecraft to fill various fluids and gases prior to launch, according to the space agency.

“The International Space Station (ISS) has been an excellent test bed for demonstrating satellite-servicing technology,” Reed said in a statement. “We are extremely grateful to the space station and to our essential partners, the Canadian Space Agency, for their support.”

He said that developing satellite servicing strategies in space makes for better technology development for less money.

During the summer of 2012, NASA is landing RRM to perform demonstrations for refueling, thermal blanket manipulation, bolt removal and electrical cap removal.