NASA Robotic Refueling Mission Departs International Space Station

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The International Space Station serves as an orbiting exam and proof laboratory for systematic experiments to be achieved inside and outward a space station. The experiments are inherently transitory with standard life cycles of about one to 5 years. Once their exam objectives are accomplished, they are private to make approach for new experiments.

On Feb. 19, a NASA examination — a exam procedure called Raven — was successfully launched on SpaceX-10/Dragon and commissioned on a extraneous of a station, where it will exam autopilot technologies for spacecraft. As a Raven load took a roost on a station, another Satellite Servicing Projects Division (SSPD) origination — a Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) payload, departed. Aboard a Dragon case in that Raven arrived, RRM done a approach behind to Earth on Mar 19, where it reentered a atmosphere. Though both payloads were and are vicious to a enrichment of satellite servicing, after RRM served a purpose and achieved a objectives, it was time for RRM to leave a hire and make approach for new experiments.

RRM has dynamic a organisation bequest in demonstrating satellite servicing capabilities and that on-orbit servicing is technologically prepared for implementation. RRM launched in Jul 2011 aboard a final space convey moody and was a final load to be private from a convey load brook by an astronaut. It was subsequently mounted outward onto a Express Logistics Carrier built during NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. RRM demonstrated and tested a tools, technologies and techniques indispensable to robotically refuel and correct satellites in space that were not designed to be serviced.

Astronaut Mike Fossum’s spacewalk for a Robotics Refueling Mission Payload on Jul 12, 2011.
Credits: NASA

The Robotic Refueling Mission was an essential overpass between a manned servicing carried out in a Hubble Servicing Missions and robotic servicing that will be demonstrated in a arriving Restore-L mission,” pronounced Ben Reed, emissary multiplication executive for SSPD. “Our group worked really tough to rise a apartment of RRM collection and experiments and are intensely gratified to see what they accomplished. We are fervent to request a lessons schooled from RRM to a Restore-L goal as good as destiny servicing efforts.”

The year was 2010 when formulation for RRM began. The fourth Hubble Space Telescope servicing goal had only ended. The space convey was in a twilight of a career, scheduled for retirement in 2011. The hundreds of engineers during Goddard who had upheld servicing Hubble were not certain what a destiny but convey would hold. A team, led by a “father of servicing” Frank Cepollina, began brainstorming how to continue servicing but shuttle. With no time to waste, Cepollina’s group dynamic that a destiny of servicing would rest on robotics and a space hire robotic arm was a best resource to exam and rise robotic servicing techniques. Eighteen months after — intensely discerning for a plan of this complexity — RRM was in a load brook of space convey Atlantis, prepared to launch and denote to a universe that robotic servicing had come of age.

“The space hire is on-orbit and already has a robot,” pronounced Frank Cepollina, a prior associate executive of a SSPD. “Space hire was tailor-made for RRM and worked beautifully as a testbed for servicing.”

The soaking machine-sized RRM load housed 4 singular collection that were used by a station’s twin-armed Canadian “Dextre” drudge to accomplish a precise, formidable tasks indispensable to refuel a satellite. These tasks enclosed slicing and bark behind thermal blankets, unscrewing mixed caps, accessing valves and transferring a unnatural satellite fuel. In Jan 2013, with this liquid send in space, RRM reliable that current-day robotic record could refuel a triple-sealed satellite fuel valve, transferring 1.7 liters of ethanol.

In apart launches in 2013 and 2014, dual new charge play and a apparatus were sent to a space hire as partial of RRM “Phase 2.” The charge play serve demonstrated activities vicious to servicing free-flying satellites. Similarly, a new tool, a Visual Inspection Poseable Invertebrate Robot, or VIPIR, exhibited state-of-the-art nearby and midrange investigation regulating an articulable, “snake-like” borescope tool.

Through these dual phases and mixed days of operations, a RRM group has connected and consistently achieved underneath pressure. Together they combined a load and finished a goal vicious to a destiny of satellite servicing. Currently, they are building and operative to govern a third proviso of RRM, that will continue to allege a record required for robotic refueling. RRM 3 will concentration privately on servicing cryogenic liquid and xenon gas interfaces that will support destiny systematic missions as humans extend their scrutiny serve into a solar system.

“Space hire was a smashing trickery to exam a technologies, and we know that RRM’s depart will make room for another good experiment,” pronounced Jill McGuire, RRM plan manager. “We are unapproachable of what we achieved with RRM, and are vehement to minister to a subsequent stages of enabling robotic satellite servicing.”

Source: NASA

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