NASA Talks About Future Robotic Spacecraft For Servicing Satellites

One of the biggest challenges for NASA and other companies that spend millions of dollars to place satellites into orbit around Earth and other planets is that a malfunction could leave them with no return from their expenditure. NASA is talking up some of the future technology that would allow robotic spacecraft to service satellites in distant orbits.

This servicing would be done by robotic spacecraft controlled using joysticks by technicians on the ground rather than by astronauts with robotic hand tools as repairs on the Hubble Space Telescope were conducted. The robotic craft you see in the image here is one of those robotic spacecraft that could be used in the future.

The craft is called the Visual Inspection Poseable Invertebrate Robot or VIPIR. It is a robotic articulating borescope with a motorized zoom-lens camera that could be used to help NASA figure out what is wrong with satellites in orbit and carry out repair operations when needed.

VIPIR will also be used in the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) that is in its second phase of orbital demonstration at the ISS. The next phase of the RRM will see the robotic spacecraft transferring xenon gas that could be useful for powering ion engines.