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White Press Office Feed

Friday, March 16, 2012


The following excerpt is from the NASA website:
WASHINGTON -- NASA's Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) 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 (CSA) 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 (SSCO) 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

"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
(3.7-meter) Dextre performed the most intricate task ever attempted
by a space robot: cutting two separate "lock wires" 20 thousandths of
an inch (0.5 millimeters) in diameter using the RRM Wire Cutter Tool
(WCT). 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.