NASA is going to attach a docking station to the International Space Station (ISS) that has been described as a "robot hotel".
The hotel's first guests the Robotic External Leak Locators or RELL.
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RELL is a robotic tool operated remotely by mission controllers on the ground, created to facilitate space station repairs, but requires crew schedule and airlock availability to bring RELL outside the station with the use of station's Dextre robotic tool.
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Two RELL units are on board the station right now: the first RELL launched in 2015, and it proved to be such a success that a second RELL was launched as a backup earlier this year. 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. The mission includes a wealth of science experiments and supplies for the crew of the orbiting laboratory. International Space Station Program Manager Kenny Todd says "Santa's sleigh is certified for the vacuum of space". The leak detectors have mass spectrometers that can find leaks from the space station, NASA officials said. 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 objective is to protect sensitive tools and make them more accessible and easier to use", Mark Neuman, RiTS project manager for Northrop Grumman.
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