Dextre is designed to handle and complete orbital replacement units: Many spares are stored on the ISS and Dextre is able to carry them to and from worksites and install replacements when failures occur. Before Dextre arrived astronauts were required to perform space walks to carry out this long work.

Each arm is somewhat like a shortened Canadarm2 (in that it has 7 joints) but is fixed to Dextre at one end.

Several new tools were added as part of the 2011 Robotic Refueling Mission. A Wire Cutter, Safety Cap Removal Tool, EVR Nozzle Tool and a Multifunction Tool with several adapters. These tools are not installed on Dextre but are used by Dextre when performing RRM operations. The tools are not considered a part of Dextre's complement of tools and are stowed on the RRM platform.