NASA News: NASA and CSA Robotic Operations Advance Satellite Servicing

WASHINGTON -- NASA's Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) experiment aboard
the International Space Station has demonstrated remotely controlled
robots and specialized tools can perform precise satellite-servicing
tasks in space. The project marks a milestone in the use of the space
station as a technology test bed.

"We and our partners are making important technological
breakthroughs," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "As we move
ahead toward reaching our exploration goals, we will realize even
more benefits from humans and robots working together in space."

The Canadian Space Agency's (CSA) robotic handyman, Dextre,
successfully completed the tasks March 7-9 on the space station's
external RRM module, designed to demonstrate the tools, technologies
and techniques needed to robotically refuel and repair satellites.

"The Hubble servicing missions taught us the importance and value of
getting innovative, cutting-edge technologies to orbit quickly to
deliver great results," said Frank Cepollina, a veteran leader of
five Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions and associate director
of the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office (SSCO) at NASA's
Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "The impact of the
space station as a useful technology test bed cannot be overstated.
Fresh satellite-servicing technologies will be demonstrated in a real
space environment within months instead of years. This is huge. It
represents real progress in space technology advancement."

Before a satellite leaves the ground, technicians fill its fuel tank
through a valve that is sealed, covered and designed never to be
accessed again. The RRM experiment demonstrates a remote-controlled
robot can remove these barriers and refuel such satellites in space.

Dextre successfully retrieved and inspected RRM tools, released safety
launch locks on tool adapters, and used an RRM tool to cut extremely
thin satellite lock wire. These operations represent the first use of
RRM tools in orbit and Dextre's first participation in a research and
development project.

RRM was developed by SSCO and is a joint effort between NASA and CSA.
During the next two years, RRM and Dextre will conduct several
servicing tasks using RRM tools on satellite parts and interfaces
inside and covering the cube-shaped RRM module.

NASA expects the RRM results to reduce the risks associated with
satellite servicing. It will encourage future robotic servicing
missions by laying the foundation for them. Such future missions
could include the repair, refueling and repositioning of orbiting satellites.

"We are especially grateful to CSA for their collaboration on this
venture," Cepollina said. "CSA has played a pivotal role in the
development of space robotics, from the early days of the space
shuttle to the work they are doing with Dextre on space station."

During the three-day RRM Gas Fittings Removal task, the 12-foot
(3.7-meter) Dextre performed the most intricate task ever attempted
by a space robot: cutting two separate "lock wires" 20 thousandths of
an inch (0.5 millimeters) in diameter using the RRM Wire Cutter Tool
(WCT). Deftly maneuvered by ground-based mission operators and
Dextre, the WCT smoothly slid its hook under the individual wires and
severed them with only a few millimeters of clearance. This
wire-cutting activity is a prerequisite to removing and servicing
various satellite parts during any future in-orbit missions.

RRM operations are scheduled to resume in May 2012 with the completion
of the gas fittings removal task. The RRM Refueling task is scheduled
for later this summer. NASA and CSA will present RRM results at the
Second International Workshop on on-Orbit Servicing, hosted by
Goddard May 30-31, 2012.

Dextre and RRM are an example of how robots are changing operations in
space. Another is Robonaut 2, or R2, a project of NASA and General
Motors. R2, the first human-like robot, was launched into space in
2011 and is a permanent resident of the International Space Station.

For more information about RRM or the On-Orbit Servicing Workshop, visit:


For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:



NASA'S Commercial Crew Partner Hot-Fires Launch Abort Engine

CANOGA PARK, Calif. -- Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, which is supporting
The Boeing Company during the development of its CST-100 spacecraft
in NASA's Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2), completed
mission-duration hot-fire tests on a launch abort engine on Friday,
March 9. The demonstration in California is one of many milestones
Boeing is meeting for its funded Space Act Agreement during CCDev2.

"Boeing and its contractor, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, continue to
make good progress on milestones supporting the development of their
commercial crew transportation capabilities," said Ed Mango,
Commercial Crew Program program manager. "The eventual availability
of these capabilities from a U.S. domestic provider will enhance U.S.
competitiveness and open new markets for the U.S. aerospace industry."

Boeing's Crew Space Transportation system is a reusable,
capsule-shaped spacecraft designed to take up to seven people, or a
combination of people and cargo, to low Earth orbit, including the
International Space Station. Its service module and integrated launch
abort propulsion system are designed to push the crew capsule to
safety if an abort becomes necessary during launch or ascent. If an
abort is not necessary, the system's propellant could be used for
other portions of a mission, including re-boosting the orbit of the
space station.

"We achieved full thrust on the 40,000-pound thrust-class engine while
validating key operating conditions during engine start-up and shut
down," said Terry Lorier, Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne's Commercial
Crew Development program manager, who supports Boeing's program.

Under its fixed-price contract with Boeing, Pratt and Whitney
Rocketdyne is combining its Attitude Control Propulsion System
thrusters from heritage spaceflight programs, Bantam abort engine
design and storable propellant engineering capabilities.

"The tests provided key thermal and analytical data," Lorier said. "We
are well on our way to providing an important propulsion system for
safe, reliable human spaceflight."

All of NASA's industry partners under CCDev2 continue to meet their
established milestones in developing commercial crew transportation

For more information about NASA's Commercial Crew Program and CCDev2, visit:



NASA March 13 Nustar Media Briefing Postponed

WASHINGTON -- The Tuesday, March 13, media briefing to discuss the
upcoming launch of the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR)
has been postponed. The spacecraft will lift off on an Orbital
Sciences Pegasus XL rocket, which will be released from an aircraft
originating from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The
mission's Flight Readiness Review (FRR) is being rescheduled for no
earlier than Thursday, March 15, to allow time for a review of data
and simulations to qualify software associated with a new Pegasus
flight computer.

A revised launch date will be set at the FRR. A pre-launch media
briefing will be rescheduled after the FRR is complete.

NuSTAR will use advanced optics and detectors, allowing astronomers to
observe the high-energy X-ray sky with much greater sensitivity and
clarity than any mission flown before. The mission will advance our
understanding of how structures in the universe form and evolve. It
will observe some of the hottest, densest and most energetic objects
in the universe, including black holes, their high-speed particle
jets, ultra-dense neutron stars, supernova remnants, and our sun.

For more information about NuSTAR, visit:



NASA Opens Media Accreditation for Shuttle Discovery Departure

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Media accreditation for activities surrounding
space shuttle Discovery's departure from NASA's Kennedy Space Center
in Florida is open. Discovery will be transported atop a NASA Shuttle
Carrier Aircraft (SCA), a modified 747 jet, to Dulles International
Airport in Virginia on April 17.

Journalists can cover a number of operations related to the ferry
flight, beginning when the SCA arrives at Kennedy's Shuttle Landing
Facility runway. That arrival currently is targeted for April 10. To
accommodate processing times, international media representatives who
want to cover the SCA arrival must apply for credentials by March 29.
For U.S. journalists, the application deadline is April 6.

For international journalists who only want to cover Discovery's
departure on April 17, the deadline to apply for credentials is April
9. For U.S. journalists the application deadline is April 16.

All media accreditation requests must be submitted online at:


A schedule of all media activities and events related to Discovery's
ferry flight will be announced in the coming weeks.

After arriving at Dulles, Discovery will be removed from the SCA and
moved to the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center for permanent public
display on April 19. For more information on the shuttle's
preparations for public display, visit:



Record-Setting Astronaut Lopez-Alegria Departs NASA

HOUSTON -- Michael Lopez-Alegria, NASA's most experienced spacewalker
and the American holding the record for the single longest
spaceflight mission, has left the agency.

Lopez-Alegria flew on four missions and performed 10 spacewalks during
his career. He most recently served in the Flight Crew Operations
Directorate at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston as assistant
director for the International Space Station (ISS).

"Mike has faithfully served the Flight Crew Operations Directorate for
many years," said Janet Kavandi, director of Flight Crew Operations
at Johnson. "His unique background and diplomatic skills have made
him an outstanding FCOD assistant director for space station and lead
for the Multilateral Crew Operations Panel. Mike's tireless
dedication to the safety and well-being of space station crews is
well known. We will miss him and wish him well in his future endeavors."

During his career, Lopez-Alegria logged more than 257 days in space,
including 215 days as commander of the Expedition 14 mission to the
ISS, which stands as the single longest spaceflight by an American.
Lopez-Alegria also logged more than 67 hours during his 10
spacewalks, more than any other American, and second only in the
record books to Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev.

"Mike has been a huge asset to the astronaut office during the course
of his career," said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office at
Johnson. "His contributions in spacewalking, shuttle, space station
and Soyuz operations are notable and very distinguished. Personally,
we will miss his humor and insights and wish him all the best."

Lopez-Alegria flew on three space shuttle missions. The first, STS-73
in 1995, focused on science experiments. He then served as NASA's
director of operations at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center
in Star City, Russia, where he was in charge of American astronauts
training for flights to the Russian space station Mir and the ISS.
Lopez-Alegria later flew on STS-92 in 2000 and STS-113 in 2002,
delivering critical truss elements to the station.

Expedition 14 Commander Lopez-Alegria and his crew launched to the ISS
on a Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on
Sept. 18, 2006. This fourth and final mission earned Lopez-Alegria
the spaceflight record. The crew conducted a seven-month mission to
operate, maintain, build and use the station and its science
facilities. During the expedition, two uncrewed Russian Progress
cargo vehicles arrived and departed the station and a space shuttle
assembly mission reconfigured the station's power supply.
Lopez-Alegria's mission ended with a Soyuz landing on the Kazakh
steppe on April 21, 2007.

For Lopez-Alegria's complete biography, visit:



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