Last year, we reported that U.S. space agency NASA was developing a “service/orbiting robot” that will go to space, refuel the satellites and if needed will repair them. At that time NASA mentioned that it will start testing the robot in early 2013. Right now NASA is running various tests. The good news is that the robot has successfully passed the test on refueling a satellite.
If a satellite operates flawlessly for years after years without rest, then its performance starts degrading gradually; slowly but surely. And at certain time the satellite will run out of propellant and can no longer keep itself on its trajectory. These satellites need to be refueled to work perfectly. But refueling satellites in not cost-effective. So NASA decided to build a service robot called Dextre that will be capable of carrying out 5 “Rs” – refueling, repositioning, remote survey, component replacement and repairing – on any satellite that might require its services.
Dextre is capable of fine-grained movement, cutting wires and removing relatively small safety caps to get to the fuel tank. NASA conducted a test with Dextre on January 25. For the first time, Dextre successfully refueled a mock satellite in conjunction with NASA’s Robot Refueling Mission (RRM) module using a pair of mechanical arms to manipulate the satellite. Here’s a video of the module’s final withdrawal from the tank.