In May, NASA officially moved forward with plans to execute the ambitious, technology-rich Restore-L mission, an endeavor to launch a robotic spacecraft in 2020 to refuel a live satellite. The mission – the first of its kind in low-Earth orbit – will demonstrate that a carefully curated suite of satellite-servicing technologies are fully operational. The current candidate client for this venture is Landsat 7, a government-owned satellite in low-Earth orbit.
Beyond refueling, the Restore-L mission also carries another, weighty objective: to test other crosscutting technologies that have applications for several critical upcoming NASA missions. As the Restore-L servicer rendezvous with, grasps, refuels, and relocates a client spacecraft, NASA will be checking important items off of its technology checklist that puts humans closer to Mars exploration.
Restore-L technologies include an autonomous relative navigation system with supporting avionics, and dexterous robotic arms and software. The suite is completed by a tool drive that supports a collection of sophisticated robotic tools for robotic spacecraft refueling, and a propellant transfer system that delivers measured amounts of fuel at the proper temperature, rate, and pressure.
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