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Island_Al
User Rank
Gold
Re: Fixing satellites
Island_Al   1/29/2012 9:59:06 AM
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The solar panel furling problem was a design problem, as are most of the problems encountered.  I laughed when the crew lost their grease gun bag, thinking why on earth (a pun) would they design a joint that would require adding grease? Here in the ground we use grease not so much for lubrication, but to prevent moisture entry and oxydation. In space a PTFE bearings would seem like a no brainer as I have often used them in aircraft bearings with good results in areas that the FAA rules do not apply.  I think that non-engineers make too many decisions based on time and costs that reflect poorly back to the enineering staff.  Prior to every flight mission I advise my crew "Don't break anything, don't even touch anything, and please try to keep it out of the ocean!"  And to my ground crews I add "Don't just do something, just stand there (and think about what you are observing before you act)".

A word about NASA Mission Control. Yes they were experts in their various subsystems, but contrary to popular myth, they did not know everything about everything.  Some were engineers but others were well trained operators. In my experience, engineers make very poor operators.  It may possibly be due to boredom or perhaps their minds drift toward improving what they are looking at rather than being aware of the content of what they are looking at.  On top of that, telemetry often lies.  This again can be traced back to design problems and most design problems can be traced back to time and money.  It seems to all be circular.

I too will side with humans, just not all of them universally.  Some humans should never touch tools at all.  Many lack "psi". Some can destroy a cast iron ball with nothing more than a powder puff.  I think of them as being negativly gifted.

 

Flago
User Rank
Iron
Medical robot used in near space
Flago   1/28/2012 12:39:17 PM
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When I had seen the advertisements for the movie {I Robot}, I thought that the still photos in the cleverly designed movie add, were an advertisement for a real android. "I had tried looking this up on the net"!

There are two factors in the use of this kind of robot. Since this is a machine man reference, there are always the unforeseen problems such as a piece of equipment getting in the way, that only a human could handle. This situation, or an unforeseen difficulty that would block a more simplistic robot_?

This society for some self-paranoid reason has not elected to design and build its first rentable by lease home anthropomorphic robots?

I feel that to where robots are nice and "in this case it's really a man to machine inference", that a better robotic ,"like us", company start should at this point be in the works for both developers and potential customers.

You still need mankind in near space to fill the gaps where a faulty situationed robot falls short. 

D.J. B computer technician and designer

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Fixing satellites
Ann R. Thryft   1/27/2012 11:37:55 AM
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George, your stories make me wonder if things could work less well when designed for servicing by robots instead of humans. I mean, if it had to work or you, a human, were dead, then perhaps there might be a lessening of standards for robot-serviced equipment, since robots being damaged are more acceptable. I hope that's not true.


Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Surgical robots repair a satellite
Ann R. Thryft   1/27/2012 11:37:01 AM
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That's an interesting point you bring up about cost, Alex. The webpage that describes NASA's Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office's Notional Robotic Servicing Mission, which my story discusses, specifically mentions costs. But the costs it describes are those of junking a defense, communication, science, or weather monitoring satellite altogether vs servicing it with robots. That seems to imply that the cost of making and sending a satellite far outweighs the cost of servicing it with a robot. So I would bet that those high servicing costs are from sending humans.


Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Fixing satellites
Charles Murray   1/26/2012 10:17:37 PM
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Gus was quite the interesting speaker, George. My favorite Gus Gruff-ism was his comment at the Convair plant after he was asked to give a speech prior to his first space flight. His speech consisted of four words: "Well...do good work." 

George Leopold
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Fixing satellites
George Leopold   1/26/2012 8:41:01 PM
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Reminds me of what Gus Grissom told the McDonnell Douglas engineers before his Mercury-Redstone launch 50 years ago (paraphrasing). "I'm going home for this weekend so don't touch anything on the spacecraft and let's launch this sucker next week." They didn't, his mission was perfect, but the exploding hatch malfunction and he almost drowned. (Someone screwed up at the MD factory.)

 

The other relevant example of "keeping it simple" was the the ascent engine on the lunar module: no pumps, no valves, you couldn't test it, it had to work or you were dead. It worked every time.

Alexander Wolfe
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Surgical robots repair a satellite
Alexander Wolfe   1/26/2012 7:47:27 PM
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It's relevant to note that repairs in space often cost more (or cost a high percentage) of the original cost of the equipment). Think Hubble Space Telescope, though the scope of the original error (a bad mirror) makes this an outlier. Anyway, this means design for repairability or redundancy is or should be a requirement for space, except there's the factor that weight reduction is a higher priority and designing for redundancy by definition adds weight. So it's an insoluable technical tautology, at least in a lingustic sense. (The robot discussed in this story do provide something of a solution, a la both the COTS cost savings I commented on earlier and the lessening of the requirement for human intervention.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Surgical robots repair a satellite
William K.   1/26/2012 6:26:19 PM
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That is an interesting assertion about the "techies" being the source of most damage. MY guess is that those who are guilty are both overpaid and underqualified. Repairs should really be handled by a "rocket scientist" because at that distance it really is "rocket science". What I mean is that just like in the early days of our space programs, those folks sitting at the consoles in mission control knew and understood every single bit of their system. Every bit of it was in their head, so they would instantly be able to understand a problem. That is one huge difference from those who are mostly qualified to fix car stereos.

The problem that I do see as very big with robot repair workers is the lack of strength and compliance. The robot would need to have the correct wrench, an astronaut could use a channel-locks wrench and handle a fitting that was a bit off centered. ON the other hand, it certainly should be possible to create a robot that could do most repairs. OF course, it will be bigger and stronger than a minimum capabilities package, and cost a bit more as well.

TJ McDermott
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Fixing satellites
TJ McDermott   1/26/2012 4:45:18 PM
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Island Al, the solar arrays on the space station were designed for automatic extension and furling.  Yet one of them broke during the process.  The repairs executed by humans on STS120 to fix it could not have been done easily by robots.  I'm hesitant to say never be done by robots.

Humans fixed it, with on-hand materials, in just a couple of hours.

The rotary joints for the solar arrays also needed repairs.  Humans fixed it; a robotic repair probably could not have executed it

I'l give you the rebuttals to these human successes; when a tool bag containing grease guns for that same joint repair got away from an astronaut on STS126.  Or on Apollo 16, where an astronaut's foot got caught in a cable, yanking it out at the connector and thus ruining an extrodinarily expensive experiment.

Humans can pull success from the jaws of utter defeat, and can cost incalculable damage from a simple pratfall.  Overall, the successes outweigh the oops in space.  I'll take a human over robot any day.

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: COTS in Space
Ann R. Thryft   1/26/2012 3:17:44 PM
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AJ2X, that's interesting input about NASA and COTS way back in the 70s. To clarify, the robot missions are for refueling and servicing once something has broken. I would think that, considering how much it costs to send either robots or humans out in space, the problems Island Al describes would be less likely to occur. 


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