With his feet secured on a restraint on the space station remote manipulator system’s robotic arm, NASA astronaut Mike Fossum holds the Robotics Refueling Mission payload. The four tools on the test device cut and manipulated wires, unscrewed caps, opened and closed valves and transferred fluid demonstrating that a remote-controlled robot can service and refuel a satellite.
(Credit: NASA)

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Supporting Effort to Develop Satellite Servicing Capabilities

ScienceDaily (Oct. 19, 2012) — With satellites playing increasingly important roles in everyday life, NASA is developing the technology to build Earth-orbiting, roving “service stations” capable of extending the life of these spacecraft. Engineers at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida are assisting the space agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., in developing the concept for bringing a high-technology gas pump, robotic mechanic and tow truck to satellites in space.

There are 149 government-owned spacecraft and 275 commercial satellites currently in geosynchronous Earth orbit, or GEO, around Earth. Placed 22,300 miles above Earth, these satellites play key roles in communications, science, defense and weather monitoring. GEO permits these spacecraft essentially to stay over the same point, allowing for constant coverage of a designated position. This is crucial for satellites relaying meteorology and television signals covering specific portions of the globe.

According to Tom Aranyos, technical integration manager in NASA’s Fluids and Propulsion Division at Kennedy, engineers at the Florida spaceport are supporting the hypergolic propellant refueling portion of the Goddard-led study examining how free-flying servicing spacecraft could expand options in orbit for government and commercial satellite owners.

“America depends on satellites in geosynchronous orbit,” said Aranyos. “These expensive spacecraft eventually develop systems failures or run out of propellant. Servicing and refueling these satellites can keep them operating longer and in the correct orbit, giving the nation and their owners more value for their investment.”

Read more: NASA's Kennedy Space Center supporting effort to develop satellite servicing capabilities — Science Daily.

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