Transcripts of G2012-095 Advancer Pkg 9

(Beep) Matt Ashmore: I live for somebody to tell me you can't do that it will never work. Narrator: But you wouldn't be crazy to wonder if sending a robot to refuel an operational spacecraft might run that risk. But you know? Engineers have imaginations. Consider this, every satellite flying right now is bespoke-- handwrought...customized detailed...and extremely expensive. That's why it pays to figure out how to repair and refuel the things, rather than just replace them. There's just one problem: that's hard to do. Joe Easley: Just getting the robot to go where you want it to go-they don't position precisely. So you have to do things like build lead-in into the tool. An astronaut could probably just get it right on there...cause he's right there. Narrator: Just like performing at Carnegie Hall, satellite repair missions demand rigorous practice... and the big practice session on deck is called Robotic Refueling Mission, or RRM. At Maryland's Goddard Space Flight Center, mission planners use a motion simulation platform to figure out how to get all the parts working together. When a robot arm clips a wire this Fall, it'll be one small snip for robots, one giant leap in the business of space based satellite servicing. The last space shuttle flight delivered hardware looking a lot like this right to International Space Station. It's a box of practice equipment-a "busy board" of valves, nozzles, fasteners, and more to simulate the side of an actual satellite. A Canadian robot called DEXTRE will interact with the practice gear. It's different in space than here on the ground, but that's kind of the point. The whole thing is a learning experience- a big one. Justin Cassidy: We're showing folks we have the capability to use an existing robot that was not meant to be used with tools to work on RRM and we've adapted those tools to make them compatible with the DEXTRE Robot and also compatible with our mock satellite interfaces that we have on RRM. Joe Easley: The robot is a very stiff rigid interface it's not forgiving like an astronauts hand. When you push on something really hard with a robot you build up really large contact forces. When the astronaut pushes on something his wrist might give, you know he's got his own internal sort of software compliance running. Narrator: Station astronauts won't be involved; this will be a mission run from the ground. RRM will demonstrate a number of essential tasks. At the end it'll attempt a first of it's kind simulated fuel transfer between two pieces of hardware-not so easy when you're orbiting the planet at eighteen thousand miles an hour. Matt Ashmore: It's really exciting to feel like you're working at the front of the wave, and the work that our team is doing is, its uncharted territory. Narrator: The Robotic Refueling Mission augurs a revolution in spacecraft operation and design. It may be a rehearsal for bigger things to come, but it's also a direct expression of a space agency with big ideas. (beeping)