It may be called the Robotic Refueling Mission, but NASA built RRM to demonstrate much more than just robotic satellite refueling.
In its second phase, RRM is now moving on to demonstrate how a space robot can complete intermediate tasks required to replenish croygen in the instruments of "legacy" satellites: existing, orbiting spacecraft that were not designed to be serviced. Initial activities to demonstrate this on-orbit capability were completed in March and June 2012 with the aid of the original RRM tools and activity boards.
The Phase 2 hardware complement consists of:
New RRM Task Boards and Tools, Installed Robotically
Phase 2 began with the launch of new RRM hardware to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle 4 (HTV-4) in August 2013.
After the payload arrives at Space Station, astronauts will mount the new RRM Task Board 3 to the top of the RRM On-orbit Transfer Cage (ROTC), an original device developed by NASA's Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office to transfer hardware outside of the ISS. Crew members will then install the ROTC onto the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) airlock slide table.
Space Station's Dextre robot — the same handyman that executes RRM operations — will then remove Task Board 3 and attach it to an empty section on the top of the RRM module. This robotic transfer will be entirely controlled from the ground without astronaut assistance.
The next Automated Transfer Vehicle, scheduled for launch to the space station in June, will deliver Task Board 4 and the Visual Inspection Poseable Invertebrate Robot (VIPIR).
RRM Task Board 3 is packed full of adapters and indicators to help RRM and Dextre demonstrate how space robots can replenish cryogen in the instruments of "legacy" satellites: existing, orbiting spacecraft that were not designed to be serviced.
A second shipment of hardware in 2014 will bring a second task board and an exciting new device named VIPIR, the Visual Inspection Poseable Invertebrate Robot: an SSCO-built borescope inspection tool that provides a set of eyes for internal satellite repair jobs.
With the help of the twin-armed Dextre handyman, RRM will work its way through intermediate steps leading up to cryogen replenishment. After retrofitting valves with new hardware, peering into dark places with the aid of VIPIR, and creating a pressure-tight seal, the RRM and Dextre duo will stop short of actual cryogen transfer.
RRM Phase 2 operations are scheduled to begin in 2014. Initial activities to demonstrate this on-orbit capability -- cutting wires and removing caps -- were completed in 2012 with the aid of the original RRM tools and activity boards. Experiments on RRM will also include evaluation of advanced solar cell technology.