This story is from the category Artificial Intelligence
Date posted: 04/07/2012
NASA completed another successful round of Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) operations on the International Space Station with the Canadian Dextre robot and RRM tools, leaving the RRM module poised for the highly-anticipated refueling demonstration scheduled for late summer 2012.
A joint effort between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), RRM is an external station experiment designed to demonstrate the technologies, tools, and techniques needed to robotically repair and refuel satellites in orbit, especially those not built with servicing in mind. RRM results and lessons learned are reducing the risks associated with satellite servicing and bolstering the foundation 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," says Benjamin Reed, deputy project manager of the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
"Every year, functional satellites providing weather, communications, and other essential services are retired because they have reached the end of their fuel supply," continued 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."
Satellite-servicing capabilities function like a reliable toolkit to help humans build, repair, and maintain critical space assets. Repair and refueling technologies similar to the ones demonstrated by RRM could be used to extend the lifespan of existent satellites, support the assembly of large structures on orbit, and mitigate orbital debris, among other benefits. In turn, these advances could make spaceflight more efficient, sustainable, and cost effective.
The RRM Gas Fittings Removal task that occurred June 19-22, represents the second on-orbit use of the RRM tools developed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. During the task, robot operators at NASA's Johnson Space Center 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.
"The International Space Station (ISS) has been an excellent test bed for demonstrating satellite-servicing technology," says Reed. "We are extremely grateful to the space station and to our essential partners, the Canadian Space Agency, for their support."
"Accurately simulating space on the ground is very costly and fraught with compromises. So to be able to develop our satellite servicing strategies in space, with all the essential services (power, command, telemetry, robotics) provided, makes for better technology development for fewer dollars. Sign me up as a charter member of the ISS Fan Club."
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