The robotics work, however, was not in vain. Tools and techniques developed for the robotic servicing of Hubble were adapted for the shuttle mission, boosting productive of the spacewalking service teams. After the flight, NASA began thinking more generically about robotic satellite servicing.
"We're trying to build an industry, not a government program in whatever NASA does and leave something behind," Dave Huntsman, who oversees commercial space initiatives at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., told Discovery News.
"In area after area, we're falling behind. We're fourth in commercial launches now, with less than 10 percent of the market. We used to have 100 percent of the commercial satellite launch market," he said.
"It isn't just a matter of money," Huntsman added. "It's whether the government leverages the money to leave a sustainable industry behind. The U.S. hasn't been doing that. That's why our competitive industries are falling behind."
Cepolina's team would like to get its refueling demonstration gear on the last shuttle flight to the station, currently scheduled for September, but with just four flights remaining, there is a lot of competition. Ground demonstrations of robotic refueling are under way.