Robotic Refueling: Paving the Way for Exploration

  • Released Tuesday, November 20, 2018

One small box of technology is getting NASA one step closer to future exploration missions. The Robotic Refueling Mission 3, or RRM3, will prove technologies to transfer and store common spacecraft consumables in space.

NASA has its eyes on human exploration, including venturing forward to the Moon and Mars. First, the agency must develop and perfect the technologies and capabilities needed for these missions.

Affixed to the International Space Station, RRM3 will use a suite of three tools and the station’s robotic handyman, Dextre, to transfer and store cryogenic propellant (e.g., liquid methane). These capabilities have applications ranging from in-situ resource utilization to solar electric propulsion to maintaining long-term life support systems.

RRM3 is set to launch to the space station onboard SpaceX’s 16th commercial resupply services mission. Once installed to the exterior of the station, the transfer and storage technologies will be put to the test.

RRM3 builds on the first two phases of International Space Station technology demonstrations that tested tools, technologies and techniques to refuel and repair satellites in orbit. It is developed and operated by the Satellite Servicing Projects Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, under direction of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.

Learn more about RRM3:

This rotating animation shows the RRM3 module in its final configuration. The module is roughly the size of a washing machine, with the fluid and gas transfer systems, consumables (liquid cryogen and xenon gas) and interfaces located inside the module.

This animation starts out showing RRM3 in its launch configuration. Two components – the tool pedestal (top) and xenon transfer subsystem (right) – will be installed in orbit, resulting in the module’s final configuration.


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Release date

This page was originally published on Tuesday, November 20, 2018.
This page was last updated on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 at 1:46 PM EDT.