The European Space Agency (ESA) is preparing to send a robotic arm outside the planet, its destination being the International Space Station (ISS). Built by engineers of aerospace company Airbus, the European Robotic Arm (ERA) is headed towards the Russian segment of the space station, where it will remain in service.
The robotic arm, which is being flown to outer space, has already been installed into the new Russian multipurpose laboratory module, also known as ‘Nauka’ (the Russian word for ‘science’). The module will be launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a Proton rocket by Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.
“It is much like a human arm. It has an elbow, shoulders, and even wrists. The European Robotic Arm (ERA) is the first robot able to ‘walk’ around the Russian segment of the International Space Station,” the ESA said in a statement.
Elaborating on the specifications of the robotic arm, the space agency said that the ERA, dubbed a ‘smart spacewalker’, is light yet powerful.
“… the orbital arm has the ability to anchor itself to the station and move back and forward by itself, hand-over-hand between fixed base-points. This space robot looks like a pair of compasses and has a length of over 11m. When stretched, it could pass a football from a penalty spot to the goalkeeper,” the ESA statement read.
The robotic arm in space will be able to handle multi-tonne payloads with a large range of motion for assembly tasks, the space agency said, adding that this ‘smart spacewalker’ will serve as the “main manipulator” on the Russian segment of the International Space Station.
Among its primary tasks are installing, removing, or replacing experiment payloads and large station elements, transferring small payloads in and out of the space station through the Russian airlock, and transporting crew members from one external working site to another.
With the robotic arm in the space station, astronauts will also be free to do other work during spacewalks. Moreover, the robotic arm is also equipped with cameras to inspect the outside of the space station for any signs of caution.
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