SpaceX will soon launch NASA’s Raven technology module into space, doing so aboard its next upcoming commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. According to the space agency, this module is designed to be attached outside of the ISS, where it will enable ‘autonomous rendezvous’ in space…that doesn’t require any human involvement.
Raven is, in this case, being sent up to space to enable NASA researchers to carry out further testing that will, in due time, lead to the introduction of autonomous rendezvous. Ravel will be tasked with testing ‘foundational technologies,’ says NASA, that will include everything from machine vision algorithms to processing and various sensors’ capabilities.
NASA doesn’t yet have the technologies needed for these autonomous meet ups in space, but says that it ‘critically needs them,’ making Raven and its deployment particularly important. This is because the vast majority of satellites currently operating in space aren’t designed for any kind of servicing or rendezvous, making the task especially difficult.
Rendezvous commands can’t be sent to the satellites from Earth due to the time delay, and that’s why Raven is necessary, opening the door for future satellite servicing in space. NASA explains that the Raven module will basically work as the brain and eyes behind this space-based rendezvous and servicing, giving researchers and personnel critical abilities.