Today, Wednesday 4, December, NASA is sending what they're calling a "robot hotel" up to the International Space Station (ISS). The "hotel" will be launched aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket as part of its commercial resupply mission.
The "hotel" is formally known as the "Robotic Tool Stowage", or the RiTS, slightly less glamorous sounding than "hotel."
Parking space for robots
You can think of this "hotel" more appropriately as a "garage", as the space will, in fact, be more similar to a parking spot for robots.
When not in use, the robots will be placed in this stowage space, protecting them from the potential dangers of Space such as radiation, or being hit by micro meteors or debris.
The first robots to grace the RiTS will be two Robotic External Leak Locators (RELL), and they do precisely what their name suggests: find leaks on the outside hull of the ISS.
Up until now, the RELLs have been stored within the ISS when they're not being used, however, as space is limited in the Space Station this external method of storing the robots will be a welcome addition.
Astronauts will have more space and comfort to store other equipment, as well as carry out ongoing research.
Robots need a place to stay in space, too. 🤖— NASA (@NASA) December 4, 2019
NASA is attaching a “robot hotel” to the outside of the @Space_Station. The protective storage unit for critical robotic tools is set to launch on Dec. 4 aboard the 19th SpaceX commercial resupply mission: https://t.co/RPBKBFlC3x pic.twitter.com/Yw4RBXcOR8
On top of that, the RELLs need to be calibrated before heading out to work, which takes a full 12 hours. 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.
Moreover, it'll be a faster and easier process as the station's Dextre robotic arm will be able to retrieve them and put them to work more quickly as they'll already be outside.