Satellites are crucial to everyday life and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to manufacture and launch. Currently, they are simply decommissioned when they run out of fuel.
There is a better way. It centers on satellite servicing, which can make spaceflight more sustainable, affordable and resilient. Our satellite servicing technologies will open up a new world where mission managers can call on space robots to diagnose, maintain and extend a spacecraft’s life.

Our new and unique 10 by 16-foot robot tests satellite servicing capabilities on Earth before they’re put to use in space. Sitting on top of the six-legged hexapod is a partial mock-up of a satellite. Mounted to a panel close by is an advanced robotic arm. Together, these robots practice a calculated dance. As the hexapod moves, it mimics microgravity as the robotic arm reaches out to grab the satellite.

NASA is working to prove the combination of technologies necessary to robotically refuel a satellite in orbit that was not designed to be serviced. The same technologies developed for the Restore-L project will advance in-orbit repair, upgrade and assembly capabilities.

The ground demonstrations take place in the Robotic Operations Center at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The hexapod robot was custom built for NASA by a New Hampshire-based company called Mikrolar.

Credit: NASA Goddard/Rebecca Roth Larger image