Modern satellites are highly technical and expensive machines that are impossible to service once deployed due to their monolithic design.
The H2020 MOSAR initiative proposes a paradigm shift where future spacecraft become modular in nature, which would dramatically improve maintenance and scalability.
Components can then be replaced if required (eg. hit by increasingly numerous space debris), upgraded, or even supplemented after the fact, for instance to adapt an existing satellite for a new mission instead of building and launching a whole new platform. This is of course much faster and cheaper, since project scopes could be reduced to just incremental upgrades.
In this context the Walking Manipulator (WM) robot was developed. This is a 7-DOF symmetrical robotic arm, with the special characteristic of having identical end-effectors on either side.
These are HOTDOCK (HD), the standard interface selected for H2020 space robotics projects, which provide mechanical strength, electrical power, data transmission, and fluid transfers. They come in three tiers: mechanical (the shape, and optionally fluid transfer), passive (same as mechanical + electrical power and data transfer) and active (same as passive + an external motorized ring to grasp any other HOTDOCK).
Thanks to its two active HOTDOCKs the WM can walk along the surface or climb over other modules by attaching to any free HD, and once in position grab a module, order it to release its grasp, and then walk away with it to be replaced. More details can be found in the Integration and Test Results paper.
This is effectively a space repair-bot, who will answer a call for help by arriving in its spaceship, hauling modules to-and-fro and scooting off to the astro-garage after bidding safe travels and pocketing some hard-earned starcoins!