Project Description

Robots in Space with NASA’s Exploration and In-space Services division

Outside of the International Space Station, space is a lonely place. Most satellites are designed to live their lives alone, and we have yet to find life outside of Earth. This means that when we launch a spacecraft or satellite, for the most part it’s on its own, and has a limited lifespan based on when critical items like fuel run out, or something breaks. NASA’s Exploration and In-space Services (NExIS) is working to change that.

In theory, the formula for sustainable space exploration is simple—you need to be able to replenish things that run out and fix parts that break (servicing), you need to be able to put parts together (assembly), and you need to be able to create things that you didn’t bring with you (manufacturing). In practice, developing these technologies is much more challenging, but NASA is actively working to make them possible.

Servicing—from refueling to repair—can help spacecraft live longer and journey farther, enabling more science and human exploration of our solar system and beyond. In-space assembly can enable the construction of large-scale telescopes and other complex structures without volume limits imposed by rockets. This can help us peer deeper into space than ever before and aid in the search for life outside of Earth. In-space manufacturing contributes to the ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances in space. Together, servicing, assembly, and manufacturing help make spaceflight more flexible, resilient, and cost-effective, and open up a new world of possibilities, including sustainable exploration.

Learn more about NExIS through our website, Facebook, and Twitter. You can also learn more about our work and engineers via our “Pass The Torque,” series which features different voices across NASA centers discussing technologies critical to making sustainable exploration a reality. Watch here: