Europe Launches its new Robotic arm, Which Will Crawl Around the International Space Station Like an Inchworm

The robotic arms of the ISS are some of its most useful tools.  The arms, designed by Canadian and Japanese space agencies, have been instrumental in ferrying around astronauts and shepherding modules to one side of the ISS.  However, the Russian segment lacked its own robotic arm – until a new one designed by ESAwas launched last week.

The European Robotic Arm (ERA) will arrive at the ISS on July 29th along with Nauka, the Laboratory Module it is attached to the outside of.  With the help of 5 expected space walks, the arm will soon be commissioned and will start on its first tasks – getting Nauka’s airlock up and running so it can become a permanent part of the station, and installing a large radiator to help handle the increased cooling load of the station.

As part of those projects, ERA will get to show off its skills.  Those include acting like an inchworm, moving hand over hand around the Nauka module.  In addition, it is the first arm to be controllable from either inside or outside the station, and that control will allow astronauts and cosmonauts to move up to 8000 kg within 5mm of a desired location.

In fact, that level of accuracy doesn’t even need to be manually controlled – the ERA is autonomous and can run strictly off written step-by-step commands.  Its seven degrees of freedom and 9.7 meter reach allow it to access even outside its home module.  Made of carbon fiber and aluminum, it is also strong enough to handle the wear and tear of space, and hopefully the impacts of debris that have affected other arms.

If you want to see the newly upgraded ISS – UT has a video for that.

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