Space X Launches 19th Mission to ISS With Toolbox for Robotic Spacewalks

A Falcon 9 rocket launches a Starlink mission on Nov. 11 2019

Enlarge A Falcon 9 rocket launches a Starlink mission on Nov. 11

Today, Wednesday 4, December, NASA is sending what they're calling a "robot hotel" up to the International Space Station (ISS).

Its first residents will be two robots created to detect leaks from the station, which are capable of "sniffing" out the presence of gases such as ammonia.

The RiTS will launch today overseas Space-X' Dragon Spacecraft, on a Falcon 9 rocket at around 12:50 p.m. from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

RELL was first launched in 2015 and was so successful that it launched a second one this year for backup.

With RiTS, this entire process would only depend on Dextre's availability, greatly expediting the search for leaks.

Along with a thermal system to maintain ideal temperature, Mark Neuman, RiTS hardware manager explained, "For each of its stored tools, RiTS will provide heat and physical protection from radiation and micrometeoroids, or tiny, high-speed objects hurtling through space".

RiTS reduces the time it takes for RELL units to be deployed which can be weeks or even months by storing them externally. The units have to wait 12 hours in space so that gas detectors are clean from gases in the space station.

However, over its lifetime, the space station has accumulated occasional small ammonia leaks at its joints, often as a result of micrometeroids. That will mean such equipment will be in tip-top shape for spacewalks, but it will also free up room inside the station and avoid the need to carry such tools through the equipment airlocks.

The robot hotel is more formally known as the "Robotic Tool Stowage" unit, or the RiTS for short, because NASA loves nothing quite so much as it loves acronyms.

Latest News