NASA is set to end the 30-year space shuttle program next month with the final mission of Atlantis, but the craft may help extend the life of satellites orbiting Earth, thanks to a handyman robot.
Atlantis will carry a unique robotic experiment during the 12-day STS-135 mission to the International Space Station.
The Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) is designed to help figure out what's needed to refuel satellites in space. As NASA describes it, "RRM is expected to reduce risks and lay the foundation for future robotic servicing missions in microgravity."
The experimental platform will attach to the exterior of the ISS, where remote-controlled maintenance robot Dextre will practice gassing up satellites that are not designed to be refueled. To accomplish that, it would have to get past the seals that typically close a satellite's fuel compartment permanently. … Read more