by Staff Writers
Pasadena, CA (SPX) Mar 20, 2012
Six rugged RocketCam color video cameras captured close-up views of the first phase of NASA's teleoperated Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) demonstration, conducted March 7-9 on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS).
The RRM demo involves a complex, washing machine-sized experiment package conceived, designed, built and integrated by the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland, leveraging the group's decades of expertise leading Hubble servicing mission activities. The RRM module was launched to ISS onboard the final Shuttle mission in July, 2011 and transferred to the ISS exterior by spacewalking astronauts.
Last week's activities kicked off a multi-phase, two-year demonstration of techniques and tools designed to show how robotic vehicles and capabilities could be employed to extend the life of satellites through servicing and by refueling their propellant tanks, thus extending their operating life.
All demo phases involve the Canadian Space Agency's two-armed, teleoperated Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, nicknamed Dextre, which accesses four special tools on the RRM module and employs them to demonstrate various aspects of refueling and servicing operations on high-fidelity satellite piece parts integrated into the RRM module. Close-up operation of each of the RRM tools is monitored by two RocketCam color video cameras per tool; only six RocketCams were utilized during this first phase of the demo.
"Without the RRM tool cameras, we would not be able to achieve the precision required for these dexterous servicing activities," says Dr. Edward Cheung, RRM Electrical Lead. "With our missions operators in Houston, we need eyes in orbit. These cameras provide this essential function."
With this initial checkout phase complete, subsequent RRM phases will demonstrate electrical connector cover extraction, manipulation of thermal blankets, robotic removal of propellant fill and drain caps, and fluid transfer that simulates refueling.
"Robotic refueling and satellite servicing could extend the lifetimes of satellites, offering significant savings in delayed replacement costs," says Frank Cepollina, Associate Director of the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office.
"Such servicing has the potential to allow human and robotic explorers to reach distant destinations more efficiently and effectively."
Figure caption: RocketCam view of the Wire Cutting Tool being precisely maneuvered by the teleoperated Dextre robotic arm next to a high-fidelity wire-secured connector during the first phase of NASA's Robotic Refueling Mission demonstration onboard the International Space Station.
Watch over 125 RocketCam highlight video clips here.
Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office
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Robots in record-distance ocean swim
Honolulu (UPI) Mar 15, 2012
Four wave-powered robots have set a record by swimming more than 3,200 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean, their U.S.-based developer said. Built by Liquid Robotics, the PacX Wave Gliders are taking part in a project to gather data about the composition and quality of seawater. The first leg of their transoceanic swim from San Francisco to Hawaii took four months and they ar ... read more
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