Robot Works on Repairs While ISS Astronauts Sleep

by Nancy Atkinson on September 8, 2011

If it turns out that astronauts do have to leave the International Space Station unmanned, at least Dextre, the Canadian Space Agency’s robotic handyman, will be there to take care of things until humans return. Above is a sped-up video showing the work done recently by Dextre, replacing a faulty circuit-breaker box outside the station. Curiously, the robot did most of this work while the astronauts inside were sleeping. Imagine, dozing peacefully inside your sleep station and hearing a knocking sound outside the module….

Dextre was operated from the ground by robotics flight controllers in Houston at Johnson Space Center, with support from several teams of engineers both in Houston and at the Canadian Space Agency’s headquarters in Saint-Hubert, Quebec.

“The successful replacement of an electrical circuit breaker on the space station’s truss is an important operational milestone,” said Lead Expedition 28 Flight Director, Ed Van Cise. “In the past, we’ve only had the option of sending humans outside the station on a spacewalk to perform such repairs. Having a dexterous robot outside the station capable of doing this while controlled from the ground is a big advance in capability that will free up crew time for important research inside the station. Our Flight Control Teams in Houston and in Canada have outdone themselves, and we’re looking forward to stretching Dextre’s arms on other tasks that will continue to help pave the way for future exploration.”

Dextre also moved two small storage pallets in preparation for a test of the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM), Dextre’s first research and development project to test the technologies and techniques necessary to refuel satellites in flight.

The robotic handyman has more tasks scheduled, and will remain on-call for duty if any other issues arise.

Can’t help but thinking: “Open the pod bay door Dextre, er, Hal.”

Sources: CSA, NASA


Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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