Orbiting robot gas station gets closer to reality

Dextre is also handy for transferring cargo from spaceships such as the Kounotori2, above.

(Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

It’s a bummer running out of gas, especially when the nearest station is 22,000 miles away.

But a project to set up a gas station on the International Space Station made a big leap forward this week with the successful refueling of a mock satellite by a robot.

Dextre, a twin-armed robot from Canada, topped off the fuel tank in the mockup, showing how satellites’ life can be extended, according to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

Operating on the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) module, Dextre removed safety caps and cut through retaining wires before transferring liquid ethanol to the mockup, which is about the size of a washing machine.

The CSA-NASA achievement is the first of its kind, and may help reduce the growing pile of dead satellites and space junk orbiting overhead.

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