Unfortunately, it probably will be a long time before anyone can drive a car to a gas station and have it automatically fueled by a robot (though in New Jersey and Oregon, you’re still required by law to let a professionally trained human to do it for you). But in space, that same idea is becoming a reality. The Canadian Space Agency has developed the technology to allow a robotic mechanism to refuel a satellite without human interaction.
The robot, called Dextre, would solve a huge issue within the science community. There are tens of thousands of satellites and other man-made objects orbiting around the planet as we speak, and many of them can only operate for so long before needing to be refueled. So Dextre has become an integral project for advancements in space, as has his mission, the Robotic Refueling Mission.
The CSA admitted this won’t be a catch-all solution, but it could be part of a standard moving forward. “Maybe the new generation of satellites will be built with the consideration of being refueled by a robot, but that’s not the case with almost all of the satellites in orbit right now,” the agency said. It would help not only for safety and security, but also to free up astronaut time. Said the CSA, “We don’t want them to spend all of their time repairing the station. We want them there to carry out their main goal – scientific research.”