Robot, heal thyself: Dextre becomes the first robot to repair itself in space

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Uploaded on May 20, 2014

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Robot, heal thyself: Dextre becomes the first robot to repair itself in space

2014-05-20 - Dextre, the Canadian robotic handyman on board the International Space Station, has done several repair and maintenance jobs to date, as well as the Robotic Refueling Mission technology demonstration, when he became the first robot to refuel a mock satellite in space. The space bot is now poised to claim a first for robotkind: self-repair. This animation shows how Dextre will swap two cameras on Canadarm2 and the mobile base, which together form the three main components of Canada's Mobile Servicing System.

Dextre will start by retrieving a faulty camera located near Canadarm2's elbow joint. Since the camera is functional, but produces hazy images, Dextre will move it to a less critical location on the mobile base. Dextre will then head over to Japan's Kibo module to fetch a camera from the module's transfer airlock —a type of sliding drawer that can be depressurized—where the station's crew will place it for Dextre to retrieve. Dextre will install the new camera on Canadarm2's elbow joint, where it will provide critical views of the robotic arm's movements.

In addition to repairing and replacing two valuable cameras used for robotic operations, Dextre's task has far-reaching implications for what robots could do in the future. Technologies for on-orbit robotic servicing—repairing and refueling satellites in space—hold great potential for addressing the issue of space debris, a growing concern for the world's space agencies. The work done by Dextre today is laying the foundation for the future when one day, robots will be sent to repair, refuel and reposition orbiting satellites. On-orbit robotic servicing could therefore save satellite operators from the significant costs of building and launching new replacement satellites, and help reduce space debris.

(Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

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