Regular readers of our site know firsthand that humanity seriously intends to explore distant planets. Basically, that’s why SpaceX is developing a spacecraft for long-distance space flights, and NASA is designing a Gateway station for the temporary habitation of space travelers. Some groups of scientists have already figured out how to grow plants in space, but in addition to this, it would be nice for them to learn how to build new spacecraft right in orbit of the planets. Fortunately, this is exactly what Midar Technologies will do in mid-2020, which, at the request of NASA, will launch a robot into space that can assemble a satellite with communication antennas. But how will all this happen?
About the terms of the contract with the American company Maxar Technologies, NASA agency spoke in its official blog. The space technology developer received $ 142 million from the agency and thereby assumed responsibility for creating technology for assembling satellites and other equipment directly in Earth orbit. It is reported that a device equipped with several robotic limbs will be used for assembly.
Spacecraft assembly in low Earth orbit
We are talking about the spacecraft Restore-L, the launch of which is already scheduled for mid-2020. He already has two robotic arms, however, as part of the new project, he will attach another additional limb five meters long. At the moment, it is known as SPIDER, which is an abbreviation of the expression Space Infrastructure Dexterous Robot, which can be translated as “Agile robot for space infrastructure.”
If everything goes according to plan and the spacecraft successfully enters the orbit of our planet, it will assemble a three-meter antenna from seven segments. For this, as noted above, the SPIDER robotic arm will be used to a greater extent. The assembly of the communications satellite will be considered successful if it ultimately can communicate with the ground station and send and receive signals.
In addition, the Restore-L spacecraft with robotic limbs will try to assemble a beam of about ten meters in orbit. In particular, the researchers want to find out whether the robot can disconnect this part from the parent satellite and insert it back. Researchers believe that this will be the first step towards building full-fledged space stations and spacecraft in outer space.
By the way, did you have any deja vu? We talked about the Restore-L in 2016, when the NASA space agency commissioned its creation of Space Systems. At that time, there was no talk of assembling spacecraft in orbit around the Earth. But the apparatus was required to perform an equally important task as satellite repair. It was also believed that with further improvement, the robot will be able to collect bit by bit space debris, which today prevents scientists from exploring distant planets using ground-based telescopes.