Wednesday, 11 December, 2019

NASA launches a ‘Robot Hotel’ on the International Space Station

A Falcon 9 rocket launches a Starlink mission on Nov. 11 2019 Enlarge A Falcon 9 rocket launches a Starlink mission on Nov. 11
Sandy Nunez | 04 December, 2019, 20:57

"The goal is to protect sensitive tools and make them more accessible and easier to use", Mark Neuman, RiTS project manager for Northrop Grumman.

RTS will serve more like a parking spot for robots, first of which will be two Robotic External Leak Locators (RELL).

RELL was first launched in 2015 and was so successful that it launched a second one this year for backup. Once outside the station, those detectors now need to wait 12 hours in space to clear itself of water vapor and other gases from inside the station.

The housing unit's thermal system maintains ideal temperatures for the instruments, helping them stay functional, according to Neuman. This will be the third trip to the space station for this recycled Dragon.

Like a shed out back of the house for your tools, the RiTS will be attached to the outside of the station to save space. Because their new storage environment is already external, it'll be much easier and quicker for the station's Dextre robotic arm to retrieve them and set them to work.

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Once outside the station, RELL now needs to wait 12 hours in space before it can be used. Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday, December 4, 2019, from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

NASA astronauts have been riding Russian rockets to the space station, for tens of millions of dollars per seat, while awaiting the repeatedly delayed commercial crew vehicles.

This vast network has thousands of feet of tubing and hundreds of joints.

For example, RiTS and RELL's capabilities could be employed to detect potential leaks occurring from future human habitats on lunar and other planetary surfaces, as well as the Lunar Gateway.

RELL Engineering Development Unit (left) pictured alongside RiTS flight unit that will fly to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX-19.