The European Robotic Arm is launched into Space

European Robotic Arm is launched into space
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By Daniel Webster, dWeb.News

Science & Exploration

21/07/2021
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ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration
After being launched today on a Proton rocket at 16:58 CEST, the European Robotic Arm (ERA), is now on its way to orbit.

The robot, measuring 11m in length, is being transported folded and attached to its home base – the Multipurpose Laboratory Modul, also known as ‘Nauka. Nauka and ERA were placed into orbit by the Proton-M booster around 10 minutes after liftoff. They are almost 200 km above Earth.

Two robotic arms are already part of the International Space Station’s robotic arsenal. The Canadian and Japanese robots are crucial in berthing spacecraft, transferring payloads, and carrying astronauts. However, neither arm is capable of reaching the Russian segment. ERA is the first robot that can ‘walk’ around the Russian sections of the orbital complex. It can transport astronauts between different sites and handle components up to 8000kg with 5 mm precision.

ERA at work on the International Space Station
David Parker, Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA, stated that the European Robotic Arm would move hand-over-hand through the Russian parts of Station. This will give space operations more freedom, flexibility, and more skill. He adds that the Space Station is getting a mid-life upgrade following 20 years of orbit. This is a chance to modernise space using a commercial approach. The European Robotic Arm’s installation and launch is a landmark for Russia and Europe in space. The robot was built by a consortium of 22 European companies representing seven countries. After 14 years of perseverance, the long-awaited debut of this European-made robotics machine is finally here.

A new arm for space

Nauka will need to slowly lift its orbit and catch up to the Space Station for eight days. The new module will dock automatically to Zvezda, the heart of the Russian segment, on 29 July at 15.26 CEST. Thomas Pesquet, an ESA astronaut, will receive the robot arm and help in its setup. Five spacewalks will be conducted to make ERA ready for space operations. Some of these will be performed by Samantha Cristoforetti and Matthias Maurer from the ESA.

Samantha Cristoforetti trains alongside the European Robotic Arm
The crew can control ERA both inside and outside of the Space Station. This is a unique feature that no other robotic arm has. ERA’s first year on the Space Station saw it install a large radiator, and set up the Nauka airlock.

Europe, together with its international partners, is working to extend the Space Station’s life for many years to come. “Our home in space continues to be improved. Europe’s Columbus laboratory is receiving new science racks, fast data connections, and external and internal platforms that are commercially available for more users. David Parker points out that Thomas Pesquet, an ESA astronaut, has been contributing to the upgrade of the Station’s power using new solar arrays.” The symbolic European-Russian handshake will allow for autonomous and real-time telerobotic operations. This is crucial for future missions to Mars and the Moon.

Where is the European Robotic Arm located?

Download this online media kit in English, Dutch, or Russian to learn more the European Robotic Arm.

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