Space

March 20, 2012

NASA, CSA robotic operations advance satellite servicing

NASA’s Robotic Refueling Mission experiment aboard the International Space Station has demonstrated remotely controlled robots and specialized tools can perform precise satellite-servicing tasks in space.

The project marks a milestone in the use of the space station as a technology test bed.

“We and our partners are making important technological breakthroughs,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “As we move ahead toward reaching our exploration goals, we will realize even more benefits from humans and robots working together in space.”

The Canadian Space Agency’s robotic handyman, Dextre, successfully completed the tasks March 7-9 on the space station’s external RRM module, designed to demonstrate the tools, technologies and techniques needed to robotically refuel and repair satellites.

“The Hubble servicing missions taught us the importance and value of getting innovative, cutting-edge technologies to orbit quickly to deliver great results,” said Frank Cepollina, a veteran leader of five Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions and associate director of the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “The impact of the space station as a useful technology test bed cannot be overstated. Fresh satellite-servicing technologies will be demonstrated in a real space environment within months instead of years. This is huge. It represents real progress in space technology advancement.”

Before a satellite leaves the ground, technicians fill its fuel tank through a valve that is sealed, covered and designed never to be accessed again. The RRM experiment demonstrates a remote-controlled robot can remove these barriers and refuel such satellites in space.

Dextre successfully retrieved and inspected RRM tools, released safety launch locks on tool adapters, and used an RRM tool to cut extremely thin satellite lock wire. These operations represent the first use of RRM tools in orbit and Dextre’s first participation in a research and development project.

RRM was developed by SSCO and is a joint effort between NASA and CSA. During the next two years, RRM and Dextre will conduct several servicing tasks using RRM tools on satellite parts and interfaces inside and covering the cube-shaped RRM module.

NASA expects the RRM results to reduce the risks associated with satellite servicing. It will encourage future robotic servicing missions by laying the foundation for them. Such future missions could include the repair, refueling and repositioning of orbiting satellites.

“We are especially grateful to CSA for their collaboration on this venture,” Cepollina said. “CSA has played a pivotal role in the development of space robotics, from the early days of the space shuttle to the work they are doing with Dextre on space station.”

During the three-day RRM Gas Fittings Removal task, the 12-foot Dextre performed the most intricate task ever attempted by a space robot: cutting two separate “lock wires” 20 thousandths of an inch in diameter using the RRM Wire Cutter Tool. Deftly maneuvered by ground-based mission operators and Dextre, the WCT smoothly slid its hook under the individual wires and severed them with only a few millimeters of clearance. This wire-cutting activity is a prerequisite to removing and servicing various satellite parts during any future in-orbit missions.

RRM operations are scheduled to resume in May 2012 with the completion of the gas fittings removal task. The RRM Refueling task is scheduled for later this summer. NASA and CSA will present RRM results at the Second International Workshop on on-Orbit Servicing, hosted by Goddard May 30-31, 2012.

Dextre and RRM are an example of how robots are changing operations in space. Another is Robonaut 2, or R2, a project of NASA and General Motors. R2, the first human-like robot, was launched into space in 2011 and is a permanent resident of the International Space Station.

For more information about RRM or the On-Orbit Servicing Workshop, visit http://ssco.gsfc.nasa.gov.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
NASA, ESA, PSI, JHU/APL, STScI/AURA image

Close encounters: Comet Siding Spring seen next to Mars

NASA, ESA, PSI, JHU/APL, STScI/AURA image This composite NASA Hubble Space Telescope Image captures the positions of comet Siding Spring and Mars in a never-before-seen close passage of a comet by the Red Planet, which happened...
 
 

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly shares bullying prevention message ahead of one-year mission

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who is scheduled to fly on a one-year spaceflight mission in 2015, is lending his voice to help reduce childhood bullying. As part of Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, Kelly recorded a special message encouraging bystanders to take action. “Be more than just a bystander,” said Kelly in the message. “Take action...
 
 

NASA seeks ultra-lightweight materials to help enable journey to Mars

NASA is seeking proposals to develop and manufacture ultra-lightweight materials for aerospace vehicles and structures of the future. Proposals will demonstrate lower-mass alternatives to honeycomb or foam cores currently used in composite sandwich structures. Composite sandwich structures are a special type of material made by attaching two thin skins to a lightweight core. This type...
 

 

Boeing concludes commercial crew space act agreement for CST-100/Atlas V

Boeing has successfully completed the final milestone of its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability Space Act Agreement with NASA. The work and testing completed under the agreement resulted in significant maturation of Boeing’s crew transportation system, including the CST-100 spacecraft and Atlas V rocket. NASA in July approved the Critical Design Review Board milestone for Boeing’...
 
 

NASA partners with leading technology innovators to enable future exploration

Recognizing that technology drives exploration, NASA has selected four teams of agency technologists for participation in the Early Career Initiative pilot program. The program encourages creativity and innovation among early career NASA technologists by engaging them in hands-on technology development opportunities needed for future missions. NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate c...
 
 

New commercial rocket descent data may help NASA with future Mars landings

NASA successfully captured thermal images of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on its descent after it launched in September from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The data from these thermal images may provide critical engineering information for future missions to the surface of Mars. “Because the technologies required to land large payloads on Mars...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>