Dutch robot arm attached to international space station ISS
A Dutch robot arm designed to assist astronauts in outer space was attached this week to the international space station ISS the NASA confirmed on Thursday. The European Robotic Arm (ERA) was built to reduce the number of times astronauts have to venture outside of the space station. The project was led by Airbus Defense and Space from Leiden.
“During ERA’s operational life the robot will help demonstrate equipment and technologies key to future space adventures, such as the robotic transfer of samples on Mars,” European Space Agency Director of Human and Robotic Exploration David Parke said.
Aerospace expert Erik Laan described the arm to NU.nl as “a kind of stick insect with two claws”. The eleven-meter-long arm was attached to the outside of the ISS. “While one claw holds on the other can detach”, Laan explained. “By repeating this movement, it can access difficult to reach spots and help astronauts with their work.” It can be operated by the crew from both inside and outside the ISS.
The arm was launched from the Bajkonoer in Kazakhstan on July 21. There were complications on the way to the ISS due to engine problems from the Russian Nauka module that transported the ERA.
Plans to build a robot arm for outer space began already in the 1980s. Yet proposals were altered a number of times, ultimately ending the mission completely at the time. In 2012, Dutch astronaut André Kuipers was meant to receive the robot arm during his time at the ISS. That arrangement also did not go through.
Around 360 million euros were invested in the ERA. Two-thirds of the funding came from the Netherlands.