Dextre on the end of Canadarm2 on Day 2 of the RRM mission (Credits: NASA).

NASA’s Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) completed successfully its first on-orbit satellite servicing test on March 9. According to Frank Cepollina, veteran of five Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions and Associated Director of the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office (SSCO), “RRM showcases the best of what the ISS can offer as a test bed for state-of-the-art space technologies.”

RRM is an ISS based experiment designed to demonstrate the technologies, tools, and techniques needed to robotically service and refuel satellites in orbit whether or not they have been specifically designed to be serviced. The experiment utilizes the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (Dextre) – a two-armed robot developed by the Canadian Space Agency – complemented by a set of interfaces called “representative satellite fueling interfaces,” a fluid transfer system and four robotic tools.

Satellite servicing has the potential to provide the means to fix and refuel satellites, extending their operational life, allowing recovery of spacecraft launched in the wrong orbit as well as disposal of obsolete ones, thereby reducing the problem of orbital debris.

This was the first of six RRM technology demonstrations scheduled for 2012. The next experiment, scheduled for May, will test remote manipulation of a valve assembly from the mock-up satellite, followed by a high-profile robot-controlled satellite refueling demonstration scheduled for July.

– Inés Hernández

The video below is a behind the scenes look at the lab responsible for RRM:

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