Dextre uses a nozzle tool affixed to the Robotic Refueling Mission fuel valve to transfer liquid ethanol in a first-of-its-kind satellite refueling demonstration. Credit: NASA

Satellite refueling testbed completes demo in orbit

Posted: January 25, 2013

Using a robotic system mounted outside the International Space Station, NASA and Canadian engineers this week completed a first-of-its-kind refueling demonstration that could change the way operators manage fleets of orbiting satellites.

During six days of activity from Jan. 14 until Friday, the Dextre robot grappled tools to open a fuel valve on a mock satellite and transfer liquid ethanol into a fuel tank. Dextre, the space station’s Canadian-built two-armed robotic handyman, used a wire cutter and other tools to remove locks and caps from a nozzle leading to a fuel tank inside a box designed as a testbed for satellite servicing procedures.

“We’ve had an incredibly successful week,” said Benjamin Reed, deputy program manager of the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The Robotic Refueling Mission was launched on the last space shuttle flight in 2011 and placed on a platform outside the space station. The experiment includes a fuel valve, nozzle and seals similar to those used on many satellites and four tools that can be affixed to Dextre’s arms.

The tools are prototypes of devices that could be used by future satellite servicing missions to refuel spacecraft in orbit.

Read more: Spaceflight Now | Breaking News | Satellite refueling testbed completes demo in orbit.

Home           Top of page