Narrator: A day like any other brings the sun. But this is not a day like any other.
It’s Day One of NASA’s Robotic Refueling Mission, or RRM.
The action is on the International Space Station, but also on the ground.
Aimed at developing capabilities for servicing…even refueling…spacecraft on orbit, RRM is like doing precise surgery at a distance, doctor and patient separated by the void and vacuum of space. It’s tough…but the payoff is huge.
No refueling on Day One, however. That’s Day Five.
Today’s goal… unscrewing a mechanical cap. But first the team has to get through a locking wire.
Ground controllers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, and engineers using the high fidelity mock-up here at Maryland’s Goddard Space Flight Center wait. Months of careful software development, hardware design, and procedural rehearsals come to this.
The tool cuts through, but one tiny end wiggles itself into a crazy position that could get in the way of unscrewing the fuel cap. A penny’s worth of wire could foul the whole operation.
Smart people get to work.
And that’s the point of RRM: test, test, test…and learn everything possible from what happens next. Once flying, satellites are uncooperative creatures, and learning how to tame them in space takes patience and wit.
Soon that pesky wire gets nudged aside, and the team goes in for the grapple. Contact…rotation…capture.
Day One. Complete. But check back. RRM continues.