NASA scientists have proposed a new technology that would park a robotic space station in space. Those satellites currently floating in Earth’s orbit don’t power themselves, you know. The galactic Chevron would be used to service the thousands of satellites currently circling our home planet—these are the same satellites being used to ensure you are fed an uninterrupted feed of Orange County Housewives.
With no way to refuel currently, satellites are often “retired” because they’re no longer useful. NASA’s new idea, however, could ensure these expensive machines live out many more productive years of life. That means, of course, less unused junkers littering the darkening orbit of Earth.
“NASA hopes to add precious years of functional life to satellites and expand options for operators who face unexpected emergencies, tougher economic demand and aging fleets,” said NASA’s Bob Granath.
But what happens when the gas station runs out of gas? In addition to building the coolest fueling hub in the known universe, NASA’s sky-bound station will also act as a mechanic shop, using robots to fix other robots, too. Space travel isn’t a cake-walk, and these floating satellites need just as much nurturing as your poor car.
Early testing on the technology has been promising. Space.com describes an instance when an operator located at NASA’s Goddard facility was able to remote-control a robot arm at NASA’s Kennedy, connecting it to a valve on a simulated satellite.
“One beneficial side effect of refueling satellites in orbit is that it lessens the amount of dangerous space junk in the area just above Earth’s atmosphere,” Space said.
At this rate, with thousands of satellites in orbit, getting off this rock we call home might be like playing a space-based Frogger. Refueling these man-made meteors could ensure more TV signals get pumped to your home, sure. Or is it just delaying the inevitable rogue satellite from crashing back down on Earth?