NASA Goddard’s robotic arm operator Alex Janas has one cool job. He and his team will be responsible for RROxiTT (Remote Robotic Oxidizer Transfer Test) in which they will attempt to re-fuel a satellite. The team will work with a robotic arm, which will head to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The robot arm comes made with a highly specialized tool which transfers satellite oxidizer, a tremendously corrosive fluid that helps propel satellites in orbit.
In their efforts to get satellites to last longer in space, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is teaming up with The Kennedy Space center to attempt this challenge. Along with the help from Kennedy’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility, The robot arm will be operated by Janas remotely from Goddard.
When the test begins at Kennedy’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility in Florida “Any humans within several hundred feet of the work site actually have to be wearing huge safety protective gear.” Say Janas
NASA’s website states that this task is extremely difficult to execute and the team has been working on it since they had demonstrated their plan to International Space Station 2011.
When a specific satellite valve is built, it is sealed up never to be opened again once in space. Part of Janas’s job is to align the robotic arm, which comes equipped with a special “Oxidizer Nozzle Tool” that can open up to the valve, and insert 2 fluids that have been combined on the spacecraft.
Janas mentions that there will be a follow-up video of the mission in which people can watch him drive the robot with what looks like a typical arcade joystick.
Benjamin Reed, deputy project manager of SSCO, says that “RROxiTT is the next step in that technology development.” The RRM (Robotic Refueling Mission) was only the beginning of the NASA’s team’s work. Reed says that he is indeed very pleased with the results, however the plan was always to do more once the robot arm was made and heads to space.
Janas knows that the hardest part of the work was not in creating the robotic arm, but getting everything to move seamlessly as planned. Only a few co-workers will be there by his side while the delicate work is being done. Cameras will be attached to the robot which is also being supported by new software that will help guide Jonas as he controls the machine.
The SSCO agency is on a path to innovate further in servicing technologies for autonomous rendezvous and docking systems, propellant transfer systems, and advanced robotic tools.
Ground operations could become safer for humans with these new technologies. Instead of a satellite being fueled prior to launch, which is a dangerous procedure “perhaps a robot could do it instead, with humans controlling from a safe distance,” said Reed.
Testing like this has never been done before at NASA’s Space station, or anywhere. The robot arm that was made will head’s to the Kennedy Center soon and people can expect to watch the testing via You Tube in early 2014.
By Katie Sevigny