Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Robotic Refueling Experiment Set Up On Space Station

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the how-are-gas-prices-up-there dept.

ISS 36

coondoggie writes "The idea that the International Space Station could be used as a port-of-call for passing satellites that need fuel or repairs took one step closer to reality as NASA astronauts set up the robotic experiment in orbit today. The Robotic Refueling Mission structure will ultimately be attached to the ISS' infrastructure. Once up and running, it will show that remote-controlled robots can perform refueling tasks in orbit, using commands sent from controllers on Earth."

cancel ×

36 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Does it need to be attached to the space station? (4, Insightful)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36742888)

If we're developing satellites that can move to the ISS' orbit, dock with it, be refueled robotically, then go back to their own orbits, why not develop a robotic fueling station so we don't have to put right next to the ISS a giant ball of fuel (whether combustible or pressurized) that attracts every wonky satellite with a taste for juice?

Re:Does it need to be attached to the space statio (1)

TWX (665546) | more than 3 years ago | (#36742962)

The orbits are wrong, there would be no benefit to attaching the real system to ISS. It would probably actually cost MORE to do it that way.

Re:Does it need to be attached to the space statio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36743346)

there would be no benefit to attaching the real system to ISS

Assuming you meant *no* benefits, I can point to at least 1 benefit in terms of PR.

Instead of saying "We have advanced the ISS into a multipurpose space station we can say "We have both the International Space Station as well as the Robotic Refueling Station. We have taken the second firm step towards actualizing our new mission in space."

Yeah it may be costlier, but if you can get past the costs phase, the PR benefits of declaring we can and WILL build large structures in space would be immeasurable. And no, despite the usefulness of satellites and telescopes, I'm pretty sure if you ask Average Joe which is cooler/requires more science between satellites, telescopes, and space stations, they'll say the space station.

Whereas a non-average Jim might say it depends on the type of satellite/telescope/space station.

Re:Does it need to be attached to the space statio (1)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#36743558)

The larger problem is... even if this works, who's going to set up the robotic station?

I mean, we could launch it from something and have it try to take orbit robotically... but that means it has to be all pre-assembled or self-assembling without error.

Or we could count on the *coughlaughcough* russian rockets to get people up there to service the refueling station. Since, you know, the US has royally fucked up their space program and are now in the mode of "well we think the private sector will do it better" republicanism... nevermind the fact that no private entity has even gotten a monkey or a dog, let alone a human, into orbit.

Re:Does it need to be attached to the space statio (1)

Hylandr (813770) | more than 3 years ago | (#36743930)

What this amounts to is the U.S. putting up yet another multinational financial obligation then abandoning it's commitment to same said obligation.

Seems to be a theme lately.

- Dan.

Re:Does it need to be attached to the space statio (2)

mywhitewolf (1923488) | more than 3 years ago | (#36744558)

you mean those dodgy Russians that got a man into space before you? put a probe on another planet before & even the moon before the US?

hell, the same Russians that have pioneered space tourism before the almighty USA!? I think Russians are better at space than what the Americans are.

Re:Does it need to be attached to the space statio (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 3 years ago | (#36743376)

This is cheap to do. Many experiments can be done and the software developed. Keep in mind that it is the FULLY DEBUGGED software that is worth a lot.

Re:Does it need to be attached to the space statio (1)

bluemonq (812827) | more than 3 years ago | (#36743458)

Because robotic refueling station sounds better -- by which I mean more likely to be funded -- than fueling station for the manned mission to Mars.

Re:Does it need to be attached to the space statio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36744214)

And it's easier to sell to owners of satellites etc thus getting support for ISS (financial and otherwise).
That's part of research the station was originally built for: it is different issue where ACTUAL refueling station will be but this research&development part is clearly where ISS could&should be used for.

Re:Does it need to be attached to the space statio (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 3 years ago | (#36743862)

Exactly the first thought that I had when I saw this.

Step 1) Install a big gas tank on the ISS
Step 2) Watch the ISS and ship being refueled turn into a giant fireball due to a glitch
Step 3) Create the first orbital funeral home
Profit!

Re:Does it need to be attached to the space statio (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36745122)

Well, the actual plan is develop satellites that can maneuver up to other satellites and fuel them in situ. TFA, as with most science 'journalism' gets it wrong.

Re:Does it need to be attached to the space statio (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 3 years ago | (#36745780)

The answer for why this needs to be attached to the space station is because it's making use of Dextre, the very large/expensive/awesome robotic arm attached to the ISS. The initial experiments may also likely need a human finely controlling the robotic arm or conducting extra-vehicular activities to set things up. There's some more details in this article [nasaspaceflight.com] .

It also wasn't mentioned in the summary, but a big part of why this is so challenging is that the tech is ultimately intended for satellites which weren't immediately designed to be refueled. There's a -lot- of old satellites out there with their fuel supplies winding down, and this could be potentially useful for quite a few of them.

Re:Does it need to be attached to the space statio (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#36750360)

Incidentally, that kind of experiment/investment is one of the technologies that Obama's plan for NASA listed. He may not have wanted to invest in another pork-ridden wagon like the space shuttle, but Obama certainly did have his head on straight when he put together his new goals and new vision for NASA. (I should mention, I suspect Obama didn't develop a lot of these goals himself, but, rather, probably had a well-informed advisor guiding him).

Re:Does it need to be attached to the space statio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36753046)

Afaik, MDA is working on just that. http://www.spacenews.com/satellite_telecom/110318intelsat-signs-for-mdas-satellite-refueling-service.html

$4 million a gallon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36742938)

$4 million a gallon space gas - I thought I had it bad!

Production unit won't be on the station (1)

TWX (665546) | more than 3 years ago | (#36742950)

The space station and the satellites they're talking about don't orbit anywhere near each other. Most satellites are in geostationary orbit much, much higher than the station, which orbits the earth about fifteen times a day.

Any refuelling station would need an orbit much like the satellites it's supposed to service. That would probably mean launching up a big ol' gas can of a station, by weight mostly fuel, up to geostationary orbit or else ever so slightly higher, and using it to refuel until it itself runs out of fuel, then deorbiting it to burn up and launching another. If it's built right then the cost of the mechanism will be negligible relative to the service it provides.

Re:Production unit won't be on the station (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#36743068)

Any refuelling station would need an orbit much like the satellites it's supposed to service.

Refueling satellites isn't a bad start but I thought this was going to be more like refueling fresh from liftoff to a jump to mars or something.

I wonder if they'll support pay-at-the-pump?

Oh God...Shut The Fuck Up About Mars (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36743222)

Where the fuck do these retards come from who can't shut up about wanting to see some idiots sit in a tiny craft for six months and then plant a fucking flag on some random planet.

Yay!!!

Grow the fuck up. This is grown up Space Science.

Want to see some people walk around on Mars? Go watch a fucking movie.

Re:Oh God...Shut The Fuck Up About Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36743316)

Want to see some people walk around on Mars? Go watch a fucking movie.

I'd rather watch a live feed on television. Wouldn't you?

Re:Production unit won't be on the station (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 3 years ago | (#36743388)

Actually, one very likely use for this will be sending a VTVL cargo lifter to the moon as well as Mars. Then we simply send fuel as needed. Later, it will be from the local surfaces.

Re:Production unit won't be on the station (1)

SynthaxError (1417629) | more than 3 years ago | (#36746140)

Most satellites are in LEO not in geostationary orbit. And this for 2 good reasons:
1) It requires much less energy to launch a satellite in LEO and satellite need less power to downlink information to the earth (plus some protection from harmful radiations)
2) The geostationary orbit is basically a 2 dimensions orbit (circle at ~35km of the earth) and so the number of satellites that can orbit there is really low.

So the ISS is in the good orbit range for our most used satellites but deorbiting a satellite, refueling and reorbiting is no simple feat. Mostly because none of the satellite we build today are not intended for this purpose. Their thrusters are designed for small short burst to be able to increase or decrease the delta-v and correcting the satellite orbit.

Re:Production unit won't be on the station (1)

Marauder2 (82448) | more than 3 years ago | (#36749934)

Most satellites are in geostationary orbit much, much higher than the station, which orbits the earth about fifteen times a day.

Actually, most are in LEO (Low Earth Orbit), the easiest orbit to reach. Also, both GSO (geostationary) and GEO (geosynchronous) orbits have an orbital period of 24 hours (geostationary is a geosynchronous orbit with an inclination of 0deg.), completing a single orbit per day. The end result is that GSO, with an orbital period of 24 hours appears to hover a figure eight pattern (size is dependent on the inclination) over the surface of the Earth while GEO, with an inclination of 0deg, appears to hover over a single fixed point over the equator. Geosync is a lot more common than geostationary since geostationary is much more difficult to maintain and there are only a small handful of geostationary "slots".

up to geostationary orbit or else ever so slightly higher, and using it to refuel until it itself runs out of fuel, then deorbiting it to burn up and launching another.

Except satellites in geosynchronous orbits are too high up to de-orbit back down into the Earth, instead the remaining fuel is used to boost the satellites even higher and out of the way into what's known as a graveyard orbit.

I'm waiting for.... (1)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 3 years ago | (#36742954)

...small private companies to set up just outside of orbit to squeegie a satellite's solar panels whether they want it or not and expect a few million in change.

Re:I'm waiting for.... (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#36751824)

...small private companies to set up just outside of orbit to squeegie a satellite's solar panels whether they want it or not and expect a few million in change.

You're doing it wrong, out of work astronauts, displaced by robbie the robot on ISS will hang out on the space corner squeegeeing spy satellite camera lenses for cigarette money. This is why there is no shuttle replacement, ISS will become an automated spy satellite refueling and re-purposing platform.

Yeah but... (1)

pauldmartin (2005952) | more than 3 years ago | (#36742968)

the gas prices are out of this world!

Will it advertise for passing aliens? (1)

Megahard (1053072) | more than 3 years ago | (#36743072)

Fill up here! Last gas until Alpha Centauri!

VTVL and now refueling (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 3 years ago | (#36743422)

Ok, so Armadillo passed on their VTVL to NASA and both NASA and armadillo continues to enhance it. What will it gain them? A cargo lifter from earth to about 100 miles up. So, where can that go? To the moon and Mars. However, once there, they will need fuel. How to do it? From space. Originally, all the fuel will come from earth. Once time passes on, then it will come from lunar and martian surface. But not right away. So, auto re-fueling in space is useful for MANY things.

Capability to dock with ISS? (1)

brim4brim (2343300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36744002)

It should at least have this capability shouldn't it? It can be in higher orbit on its own but should be able to dock with ISS so we can launch a mission to replace ISS crew and refuel this refueling robot in one mission before it moves back to its original orbit. Seems like that could be an efficient way of running it. If nothing else, it needs to be able to dock with ISS to be repaired and for maintenance surely?

Next step (1)

mywhitewolf (1923488) | more than 3 years ago | (#36744616)

What we really need to do, is come up with a fueling station that just requires water & solar (or nuclear) energy,

input water, use the electricity to split it up into hydrogen and oxygen, compress and cool (using more energy). = conventional rocket fuel.

id say nuclear power would produce a better fueling station because of the energy density, but that requires replacing the nuclear fuel, and i don't think the government likes the idea of any country rocketing fission material above everyone's heads. but if we could master this, global long distance transport would be just a matter of finding available water.

Re:Next step (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 3 years ago | (#36747338)

Water is as heavy as fuel. Much cheaper to generate the fuel on earth. This would only make sense sonewhere with a local source of water.

Re:Next step (1)

mywhitewolf (1923488) | more than 3 years ago | (#36758034)

that's what i was getting at. if we could get the fueling station to jump on a passing comet or a moon or something, harvest the ice while its already in space and the cost to escape gravity is trivial.

Much better grammar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36745068)

ISS' infrastructure

ISS's infrastructure

A Good News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36745814)

The idea that the International Space Station could be used as a port-of-call for passing satellites that need fuel or repairs took one step closer to reality as NASA astronauts set up the robotic experiment in orbit today.

Really a good news, I also recommends this crystal jewelry [aimengcrystal.com] online shop for you!

Easter and safer to setup a network (1)

BlueCoder (223005) | more than 3 years ago | (#36747240)

The one great thing about space is that once you get there, even low earth orbit, it doesn't take much more fuel to maneuver.

Setup a few different fuel depots. Have tanker bots shuttle it between orbits. Then have repair robots and their detachable tanks rendezvous with the tankers. A repair boats would consists of at least two robots, a fuel tank and repairing instruments and parts.

This way is full of redundancy. And as a side benefit broken parts can be ferried to the ISS for repair. Ideally your would want at least a dozen repair boats stationed in different orbits to minimize fuel consumption for travel between orbits and redundancy for failing units.

What we really need to build in space in a solar power plant and a manufacturing foundry. If we could build and recycle in space it would be a lot more efficient.

Remote controlling will be useful .. (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#36749194)

.. especially now that there is no more Space Shuttle

Gas stations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36768816)

Why not build multiple ISS stations for longer journeys like a gas station with emergencies and fuel ... so we can build highways to mars and moon and back...

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>