NASA is attaching a “robot hotel” to the outside of the International Space Station with the upcoming launch of the Robotic Tool Stowage (RiTS), a protective storage unit for critical robotic tools.
RiTS is set to launch on Wednesday aboard the 19th SpaceX commercial resupply mission.
Its first residents will be two Robotic External Leak Locators (RELL). Outfitted with mass spectrometers capable of “sniffing” out the presence of gases such as ammonia, these robotic tools are used to detect leaks from the station.
Two RELL units are on board the station right now: the first RELL launched in 2015, and a second RELL was launched as a backup earlier this year.
“For each of its stored tools, RiTS will provide heat and physical protection from radiation and micrometeoroids, or tiny, high-speed objects hurtling through space,” RiTS hardware manager Mark Neuman said in a statement.
“Its thermal system maintains ideal temperatures for the instruments, helping them stay functional,” Neuman said.
Having this housing unit in place will also help the space station’s robotic arm, Dextre, to easily locate, grab and put back these important tools, NASA said.