Tag Archives: Dextre

The robotic demonstration of remote satellite repair on ISS resumed this week.

The robotic demonstration of remote satellite repair on ISS resumed this week.

The latest round of demos follows a breakthrough round of ground-controlled activities in January using the 70-ft.-long Canadian robot arm/Dextre combination to sever lock wires and remove a mock fuel cap to flow 1.7 liters of ethanol fuel into the RMM.

The new tests will see if the robot arm can do even finer and more difficult tasks, such as unscrewing and storing a small screw.

The demo mission of robotic refueling of satellites on ISS goes forward this month.

Robot refueling of satellites: The demo mission on ISS goes forward this month.

As much as I celebrate this work, conceived and designed by engineers at the Goddard Space Flight Center (the same people who ran the missions that maintained the Hubble Space Telescope), I worry that nothing will come of it. The demo mission itself is designed to duplicate exactly the refueling of several climate satellites already in orbit whose lifespans are ending merely because they are running out of fuel. If the ISS demo succeeds, the next natural step would be to plan an actual robotic mission to refuel these satellites.

The worrisome part is that NASA rarely follows through on this kind of research. For example, the agency did tests of an ion engine back in the early 1970s, and it wasn’t until the late 1990s before they finally flew a mission using that technology. Worse, the federal budget situation probably means there is no money to fly such a mission.

Hopefully, some private company will take a look at this engineering, which is all in the public domain, and decide to use it for their own purposes.

The second phase of NASA’s robotic refueling demo on ISS has successfully proven that a robot can remove a satellite fuel cap not designed for refueling.

The second phase of NASA’s robotic refueling demo on ISS has successfully proven that a robot can remove a satellite fuel cap not designed for refueling.

The fuel cap design is a duplicate of that used by several climate research satellites presently in orbit. These satellites were not designed to be refueled, but if they could be refueled, their usefulness in orbit could be doubled, even tripled. This test is intended to demonstrate that a robot could refuel them.

The last phase of this robotic demo will take place in August, when the robots will attempt to pump a simulated fuel into the demo satellite.

Robotic refueling demo begins today on ISS

A robotic refueling demo. designed and built by the same people who ran the Hubble Space Telescope repair missions, begins today on ISS, using Dextre.

This demo is designed to prove that a robot, operated from the ground, can refuel a satellite not designed for refueling. The demo satellite on ISS was built to match the design of several climate satellites already in orbit that will end up defunct in a few years if they can’t be refueled.

Ground controllers replace a failed circuit box on ISS, using the robot Dextre

Ground controllers successfully replaced a failed circuit box on ISS this weekend, using the two-armed Dextre robot.

Up to now, exchanging the boxes was done by spacewalkers, which always carries a certain level of risk. Dextre was designed to reduce the need for astronauts to conduct spacewalks for routine maintenance, therefore freeing up the crew’s time for more important activities, like conducting science.