Remember the Robotic RefuelingMission and the huge success that it was? Well, get ready for RRM version 2.0; the new RRM hardware module was delivered to the ISS aboard the European Automated Transfer Vehicle-5 and two new task boards and a borescope inspection tool will be transferred robotically to equip the RRM for a new round of testing as a Satellite Repair Man.
Between the Canadian robotic arm, Dextre (who also acts as their outside handy-man for basic upkeep issues) and the RRM – NASA is set to unleash some game changing technologies that will enable remotely controlled robots to eventually repair and service spacecraft in orbit, not just satellites, though satellites are their primary concern. Every bit extra the service can include means a satellite could keep operating longer due to optimal performance continuing. Theoretically this means less space debris to worry about, if it is a company less money putting up a new satellite so more money to stock hoders and perhaps less cost to the consumer. If we are talking about a government satellite then the life estimation of the general cost PLUS ~ $400 million to launch it, the cost of satellite insurance (yes there is such a thing); our government could save $$ and maybe either spend it somewhere else or pocket it and save the taxpayer money.
In addition to the new software, a new batch of hardware is joining it including a new space tool called VIPIR (Visual Inspection Poseable Invertebrate Robot).The “new” tests will include steps leaning toward spacecraft servicing – such as cryogen replenishment, a carbon nanotube experiment, a next-generation solar cell technology as well as a host of other testing.
Everything from the weather we experience to the phone calls we make to the GPS/directions we count on, rely on keeping these satellites active!