Earth-orbiting spacecraft are now so prevalent they could easily be taken for granted. Since April 2011, engineers at Kennedy have partnered with the SSCO at Goddard to develop robotic satellite servicing technologies necessary to bring in-orbit inspection, repair, refueling, component replacement and assembly capabilities to spacecraft needing aid. The project could also lead to life extension or re-purposing in Earth orbit or applications beyond.
Located the Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility, the Remote Robotic Oxidizer Transfer Test, or RROxiTT, robot mimicked how future servicing satellites could transfer oxidizer to a satellite needing refueling. Image Credit: NASA
Kyle Norman from the Goddard Space Flight Center, foreground, adjusts a typical client satellite fill drain valve on a mockup interface for the Remote Robotic Oxidizer Transfer Test, or RROxiTT, test in February 2014. Assisting, from the left, are Greg Coll of Goddard, Erik Tormoen from the Kennedy Space Center, and Mark Behnke of Goddard. They are preparing the client satellite mockup valve panel for the planned remote robot connection via nozzle tool connected to the robot arm in foreground.
Commanded from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., the RROxiTT industrial robot connects to a simulated satellite fill and drain valve located in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The test was to demonstrate how future satellite servicing spacecraft could transfer oxidizer to a satellite not designed to be refueled.
Wearing a self-contained atmospheric protective ensemble, or SCAPE, suit, Kennedy Space Center engineer Kevin Abbott opens a supply tank flow source of highly toxic and corrosive nitrogen tetroxide propellant for the system flow test.
A robotic servicing satellite, on the left in this artist’s concept, could use propellant transfer technologies currently being developed to extend the life of Earth orbiting satellites. Image Credit: NASA