Robotic Fuel-Delivery

NASA Motoman SIA50
Above: Motoman SIA50D robot engages with satellite fuel-valve

PROBLEM : The working life of a satellite is limited by its store of fuel. Once spent, the satellite can no longer maintain orbit and, although worth millions of dollars and still otherwise operational, it’s simply disposed of. Either the operator uses the last of its fuel to “park” the satellite in a higher “disposal orbit” or it’s simply allowed to fall to Earth. Both of these options are extremely wasteful and both are still dangerous to other craft, not to mention all of us way below!

NASA refuelling rocket
Above: Refuelling rocket (containing the robotic-armed refuelling module) approaches a satellite.

SOLUTION : NASA has just successfully tested a telemetry-operated, robotic refuelling solution using Motoman’s 7-axis SIA50D robot. This robot’s ability to move with great flexibility in tight spaces, yet with a 50kg capacity to carry all the necessary tooling, allows it to connect the rocket’s refuelling line with a satellite’s fuel-valve …while being controlled from thousands of kilometres away.

Equipment in Focus :

The Motoman SIA50D robot.

  • 7 axes of motion.
  • 50 kg payload capacity.
  • 1,630 mm max. reach.
  • 0.1 mm accuracy.
  • Minimal 450 mm wide footprint

Application in Action :