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NASA launching a 'robot hotel' to space station

04 December 2019

Liftoff is scheduled for 12:51 p.m. from Cape Canaveral. The Air Force said weather is 90 percent favorable for launch, with a backup date Thursday, if needed.

When the vehicle arrives at the orbiting laboratory on December 7, Expedition 61 Commander Luca Parmitano of the ESA (European Space Agency) will maneuver the Dragon, with NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan will step in with backup operations. But the company halted the countdown because of excessive upper-level wind at Cape Canaveral and also out in the Atlantic.

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"If we look at the predictions, we think we are OK", said Jessica Jensen, a mission management director with SpaceX.

RiTS will provide protection from heat and physical protection from radiation and objects that are hurling through space. "The Japanese airlock for equipment is very popular, very busy".

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The first guests at the hotel will be two robots called Robotic External Leak Locators (RELL - because acronyms).

Outfitted with mass spectrometers capable of "sniffing" out the presence of gases such as ammonia, these robotic tools are used to detect leaks from the station. Being able to do this 12 hours at a time from the exterior of the ISS will be extremely useful to the team of astronauts.

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The Robotic Tool Stowage (RiTS) was developed by Satellite Servicing Projects Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center as a special protective storage unit for important robotic tools. The robots have been previously used and stored inside the ISS, but since space inside the ship is the most optimal spot for storing, its better for work-flow and ease of storing to have them outside the station. Twenty seeds will be sprouted or grown out. Following the launch, SpaceX hopes to recover the Falcon 9 to reuse for future missions.

NASA launching a 'robot hotel' to space station