Airbus Defence and Space, part of the Europe-based global Airbus group, announced on Monday that it had installed the European Robotic Arm (ERA) on to the ‘Nauka’ multipurpose laboratory module (MLM) for the International Space Station (ISS). The installation included the equipping of the Nauka module with two ERA control stations.
Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands oversaw the development, integration and testing of the ERA, including managing the development of subsystems across Europe. It did so on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA), which contributed the ERA to the Russian space agency Roscosmos for the MLM.
The completed Nauka MLM will now be integrated on to a Russian Proton rocket and launched from the renowned Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The space voyage to the ISS will last a week. The ERA will service the Russian segment of the ISS.
“The long awaited launch of the [ERA] to the [ISS] marks a huge contribution of the Netherlands to the continued operation of the ISS, which was enabled by the loyal support of the Netherlands Space Office and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy,” highlighted Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands CEO Rob Postma. “In addition, it celebrates the effort, commitment and determination of the many space professionals involved throughout the years.”
The ERA is 11.3 m long and is a symmetrical two-handed intelligent robot arm, with a control computer in its middle. It has lightweight limbs and seven strong and accurate joints and is fitted with infrared cameras. In operation, it has an accuracy of 5 mm. These features give it great versatility.
In use, the arm will be able to ‘walk hand-over-hand’ around the outside of the ISS, moving between fixed base points. Because of the zero-gravity conditions it will be working in, it will be able to move large masses despite its light construction. Routinely it will be able to move up to 3 000 kg, while in ‘slow mode’ it will be able to move up to 8 000 kg. It can be controlled by cosmonauts and astronauts from both inside and outside of the ISS, or it can be pre-programmed, again from either inside or outside the space station.