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NASA, SpaceX To Launch 'Robot Hotel'

Dave Royse

In space, no one can hear you scream about not having enough room to store your robots. But it’s still a problem.

Until now.

NASA and Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA) CEO Elon Musk’s private space exploration company SpaceX on Wednesday will launch the 19th of the company’s commercial resupply missions to the International Space Station and this time will deliver a new robot storage unit, called RiTS, for Robotic Tool Stowage.

Like a shed out back of the house for your tools, the RiTS will be attached to the outside of the station to save space. NASA this week called the unit a “robot hotel.”

See Also: Musk Vs. Bezos Vs. Branson: Who's Winning The Space Tourism Race?

What 'Robot Hotel' Will Be Used For

The storage space will be used to store two Robotic External Leak Locators, or RELL robots, which use mass spectrometry to detect gas leaks from the station, the space agency said in a press release.

“For each of its stored tools, RiTS will provide heat and physical protection from radiation and micrometeroids, or tiny, high-speed objects hurtling through space,” said Mark Neuman, RiTS hardware manager. “Its thermal system maintains ideal temperatures for the instruments, helping them stay functional.”

Learning For Later?

The little parking garage for robots is purely for work purposes, but the storage units may also help space exploration companies learn how to create adequate living spaces for people on the moon or other planets, or on the envisioned Lunar Gateway moon orbiting station.

And perhaps the “robot hotels,” could teach engineers what they need to know to build “people hotels,” for Musk and others, who have said part of the private interest in space travel is with tourism and colonization in mind.

NASA acknowledges that too.

“Human and robotic collaborations like these can be applied to more than just the space station, including potential exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond,” the agency said this week.

RiTS spacewalk install procedures being tested in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Photo credit: NASA

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