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  • Dextre Demos Satellite Refueling
    Posted by Graham Warwick 4:27 PM on Mar 08, 2012

    Up on the International Space Station, Canada's two-armed robotic 'handyman', Dextre, is involved in a three-day R&D mission to demonstrate how space robots could refuel satellites to extend their life on orbit.

    blog post photo
    Photo: Canadian Space Agency

    The Canadian Space Agency is cooperating with NASA on the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM), which supports both its Next-Generation Canadarm program and on-orbit satellite servicing development work by Vancover-based MDA. Using four specialized tools provided by NASA, Dextre will demonstrate how to access the fuel system of a typical satellite

    "With this unique RRM toolkit (including a Wire Cutter and Blanket Manipulation Tool, Multifunction Tool, Safety Cap Removal Tool and Nozzle Tool), Dextre will cut through the simulated satellite’s exterior, remove layers of insulation and cut away the wiring covering the fuel cap. In the next phase of the operation, the robotic handyman will connect a hose to the fuel valve and pump simulated liquid fuel into the mock spacecraft,"
    says the CSA.

    blog post photo
    Concept: Canadian Space Agency

    On Day 1 of the mission (Mar. 7), perched on the end of Canadarm 2, Dextre retrieved, inspected and stowed three of the four specialized tools. Today, it will perform "the most intricate task ever attempted by a space robot," says CSA -- sliding a miniature hook under a wire with surgical precision.

    Early this year MDA scrapped plans to collaborate with Intelsat on in-orbit satellite refueling, citing a lack of commitment by potential customers, but it continues to bid for spacecraft repair missions. Meanwhile Vivisat, formed by US Space and ATK, are continuing development of the Mission Extension Vehicle, which would dock with operating satellites that have run out of maneuvering fuel and act as a back-up propulsion system to extend their life on orbit.

    Tags: os99, NASA, CSA

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