On July 21, the most expensive space project from the Netherlands will go into space. The European robotic arm is going to the International Space Station (ISS). It is not only an expensive project, but also a long-term one: this has been in the pipeline for 35 years.
European robotic arm
It is not a small arm, but an eleven-meter device. Unlike the human arm, the robotic space specimen has seven joints. It is a special device, because despite its large size, it can be controlled even to the nearest 5 millimeters. It can move ten centimeters per second. He has to do it, because he has to get to work: the intent is to install parts from a Russian laboratory unit.
In this sense, the robot arm is actually a kind of astronaut, because it ensures that the need for spacewalks is reduced. These marches, as you saw in the movie Gravity, for example, are accompanied by the necessary risks. In addition, they are relatively expensive. The robotic arm is thus an essential extension of the crew.
You don’t necessarily have to steer it yourself, because it can move independently. Not about the entire ISS, but about the Russian part. So the arm will work with Nauka, which is made by Russia. If the astronauts still want to operate the arm themselves, this is one option. Even when the astronauts are outside, they can control their suit on the arm, that is, through the buttons attached to the device.
Something like this is so expensive, how much does it cost? The total amount was 360 million euros, of which the Netherlands paid 240 million euros. The project was led by Airbus Defense and Space Nederland (formerly Dutch Space). It’s good that this project is finally getting started – literally and figuratively – because it was actually supposed to collaborate with the Hermes project, a European space shuttle, which was eventually canceled. Unfortunately, the next project in which the European robotic arm was to be involved had the same fate: the MIR-2 space station never came to fruition.