Now pay attention: drama happens here in tiny gestures. The Robotic Refueling Mission… proof positive that big things are possible…if you’ve go the patience to add up a million little things. NASA wants to prove that robots make sense in space for all sorts of jobs, including the refueling of aging satellites. Midway into the mission, the team preps for the main event. But many steps need to happen before the refueling test. Here’s the scene at International Space Station. On the end of this long arm there’s a custom tool designed for one purpose: removing the safety cap to a valve leading to the fuel tank. Engineers here at the Goddard Space Flight Center designed the tool, the test bed, and the overarching operation. Experts at The Johnson Space Center drive the robot. Before refueling there’s all sorts of prep. On flight day two, brows wrinkled from Maryland to Texas as a supporting robot arm came back with sketchy readings. Hours later, tension abated and the robot got a clean bill of health. The team continued. Flight day three: working remotely again 250 miles above Earth. Wires cut, robot tools tested, back on track. All systems go. Which brings us up to date. Custom tool meets specialized cap…and twists…a vital test before the actual refueling. Spin it out…spin it back. Good test. Ready for the real thing.
More than patience: vision. RRM represents on orbit operations of the future. With this planned first-of-its-kind transfer of simulated fuel, that future gets much closer to the present.
Coming soon: the main event.