NASA's refueling demonstration proves viability of satellite-servicing technologies

Feb 11, 2013 by Rachel Kraft & Dewayne Washington

(Phys.org)—NASA has demonstrated robotic fluid transfer in space, an objective that will help inform the development of robotic technology to refuel satellites. The first-of-its-kind demonstration was performed during the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) aboard the International Space Station.

"This achievement is a major step forward in servicing satellites," said Frank Cepollina, associate director of the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "RRM gives NASA and the emerging commercial satellite servicing industry the confidence to robotically refuel, repair and maintain satellites in both near and distant orbits—well beyond the reach of where humans can go today."

A joint effort with the , RRM uses the as test bed for the research and development of robotic satellite-servicing capabilities. During six days of activity last month, controllers on the ground at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston used the space station's remotely operated Dextre, a robotic space handyman, to cut wires, remove and stow caps and perform tasks necessary to refuel satellites not designed to be refueled.

The cutting-edge technologies that RRM is demonstrating could extend the lives of many of the hundreds of satellites currently in geosynchronous . These are satellites that deliver essential services such as weather reports, cell phone communications, , government communications and .

RRM tasks scheduled to be performed later this year include thermal blanket cutting and fastener and electronic termination cap removals. NASA anticipates RRM technologies may help boost the commercial satellite-servicing industry in the future. Such servicing capabilities could greatly expand options for government and commercial fleet operators.

Explore further: Computer model shows moon's core surrounded by liquid and it's caused by Earth's gravity

More information: For information, updates and videos about RRM and NASA's satellite servicing activities, visit: ssco.gsfc.nasa.gov

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Robotic refueling mission begins with space station robotics

Mar 07, 2012

NASA's highly anticipated Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) began operations on the International Space Station with the Canadian Dextre robot and RRM tools March 7-9, 2012, marking important milestones in satellite-servicing ...

Recommended for you

Titan offers clues to atmospheres of hazy planets

18 hours ago

When hazy planets pass across the face of their star, a curious thing happens. Astronomers are not able to see any changes in the range of light coming from the star and planet system.

Having fun with the equation of time

18 hours ago

If you're like us, you might've looked at a globe of the Earth in elementary school long before the days of Google Earth and wondered just what that strange looking figure eight thing on its side was.

The source of the sky's X-ray glow

Jul 27, 2014

In findings that help astrophysicists understand our corner of the galaxy, an international research team has shown that the soft X-ray glow blanketing the sky comes from both inside and outside the solar system.

User comments : 0