After 15 years of waiting, ESA’s ERA arm will finally reach the Space Station

We were no longer expecting it! Originally scheduled for 2007, the launch of the European arm ERA should take place today. Together with the Columbus Science Laboratory and the Automatic Transfer Vehicle (ATV), ERA is the third major component of European participation in the ISS program. Installed on the new Russian Nauka module, also known as the Russian Multipurpose Laboratory (MLM) module, it will be dedicated to the Russian segment of the Station, several parts of which are inaccessible to the Canardarm2 arm.

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The arm robotic The European Space Agency’s ERA, integrated into the Russian Nauka module, will be launched on July 21 for the International space station (ISS). Very late on its initial schedule – it should have been launched in 2007 – this arm was built by a European consortium, led by Airbus Defense and Space. ERA is dedicated to russian segment of complexe orbital in addition to the Canadarm2 robotic arm which cannot access all of this part of the ISS.

As for Nauka, it is a mini space station. Although designed for experimentation and a living and working area for cosmonauts, this module will also serve as a docking port. It also has the particularity of being equipped with a CNG navigation and guidance control system as well as an attitude control system. It can be used as a back-up solution by the ISS and if the Russians decide to separate the Russian part of the ISS, as they have speculated, Nauka can be the heart of their future space station. Nauka will be installed on the Zvzeda module, instead of the Pirs module, which will be unmoored from the Russian segment. Pirs was used as an additional mooring port for the Soyuz and Progress vehicles, and as an escape into space for Russian cosmonauts. It will be desorbed by a Progress.

A complementary arm of Canadarm2

Although very different from Canardam2, ERA will be complementary. 11.30 meters long and weighing 680 kilos, it can move masses very large, from three tonnes in routine up to eight tonnes in slow mode. This symmetrical, two-handed arm can move forward or backward under its own control along the ISS, from hand to hand, from one fixed point to another. The seven articulations ERA’s sturdy and precise, light limbs andcomputer control located in the middle of the arm give the robotic arm its versatility. It will be used to install and replace solar panels, inspect and assemble modules and facilitate the movement of solar panels. astronauts performing spacewalks. Finally, his cameras infrared will be used to inspect the exterior surface of the station (aging of the protective coatings, impacts of micrométéorites, verification of the attachments of the modules, pallets, etc.).

ERA can be controlled from inside or outside the Station, in real time or programmed in advance. With its joints, ERA looks like a kind of human arm. It is powered by motors and cables. It is symmetrical, in that on both sides of the “elbow” there are two “muscles” and two “wrists”. Its ends are able to hang on to the station, which gives it a large range of action all around the Russian part. It will move by hooking on one end, then another. Finally, it is equipped with many tools, including a platform with toe clips and handrails to transport astronauts during their spacewalks. Among the main strengths of this arm:

  • control from the outside using an external control panel;
  • control from the inside using a laptop (without the need for joysticks like the other arms of the ISS);
  • preprogrammed operation;
  • automated collision avoidance system based on a software ;
  • Precision of 5 mm.

European astronauts on the maneuver

Thomas Pesquet will perform the first electrical check of ERA. Matthias Maurer, which is due to join the Station in early November, should participate in a spacewalk to validate the operation in orbit of the ERA arm. Later, ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti who will carry out a new mission aboard the ISS at the end of 2022 (Crew-4) will perform, also during a spacewalk, one of the tasks of installation of ERA for Nauka.

European robotic arm Era awaits departure for the ISS

Article by Remy Decourt published on 07/30/2012

Scheduled for 2007, the launch of the Russian Nauka Multifunction Laboratory (MLM) has been postponed several times and has just been postponed to 2013. It will be equipped with the Era robotic arm of the European Space Agency which has been ready for a long time. years. Philippe Schoonejans, Era project manager, explains to Futura-Sciences the functions assigned to this beautiful mechanism … eagerly awaited.

The Russian announcement to postpone the launch of the module Nauka, to which must be attached Era (European Robotic Arm), once again forced the European Space Agency to take its trouble patiently. As Philippe Schoonejans (Era project manager) confides at Futura-Sciences, “ The Era robotic arm has been ready to go for a long time ».

This arm is one of the three major contributions of European participation in the construction from International space station. This program was officially launched in November 1995 and its construction was completed at the end of 2004. Since 2008, it has been located in Russia. Initially, the program planned to launch by a space shuttle then, due to the circumstances, the decision was made to send it in November 2007 aboard a Proton with the MLM module. Since then, the launch has been postponed several times to finally be set for December 10, 2013.

Roscosmos having specified its new schedule, ” nWe will prepare Era according to this new launch date “. Concretely, integration on the Russian module is now planned for August 2013 and the whole, that is to say Era backed by the Nauka, will be transferred shortly after to the site of Baikonur, or Kazakhstan.

For Philippe Schoonejans, this “ carryover has no impact on the arm itself “. It is currently stored in ” conditions which prevent any degradation liable to damage its components “. This postponement will nevertheless cause an additional cost because certain industrial activities ” will be spread over a longer period “. We can cite as an example those related to the ” software compliance with Nauka module computers », In the preparation of the launch or even that which consists in ensuring the qualification of the Era arm for a shipment by a Proton Russian ” while he was originally qualified for a launch aboard an American space shuttle ».

Russian segment of the ISS needs Era

Despite its late arrival aboard the International Space Station, the Era Arm must ” expect sustained activity because the robotic arm Canadarm2, supplied by Canada, does not cover the entire Russian segment of theISS ».

Upon arrival, Era will be used as a priority to complete the setup of Nauka. So, he ” will install the heat sink panels of heat of the module “, More commonly called radiators, and the exit airlock equipment in order to limit space exits for the crew. The Era arm was designed to work with the Russian airlock, so that “ astronauts no longer have to venture outside the Space Station to install certain material parts. Using video cameras, the arm can perform checks outside the Station, it can move experiments and supplies, or even serve as a crane for astronauts. ».

Finally, he will install the work platform on which the crew members will be seated. This hooks onto the end of the arm and ” allows astronauts to sit in a standing position for work or transport “. All these elements are already on board the ISS, stored on the Russian module Rassvet (MRM-1).

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