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The Russians spend more than six hours working on the arm of a Dutch robot for the International Space Station

The Russians spend more than six hours working on the arm of a Dutch robot for the International Space Station

When Russia launched an attack on the Ukrainian army on Earth, space echoed the calm and Russian technique of astronauts who installed a European component on the International Space Station during a spacewalk. “Before tightening it, make sure the adapter is securely attached to the lever…Yes.”

During a spacewalk of 6 hours and 37 minutes, Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev begin installing the European Robotic Arm (ERA), an 11.3-meter (11.3-meter) robotic arm with seven rotating joints that can move heavy parts outside the International Space Station. ERA was built under the supervision of the Dutch Aerospace Corporation in Leiden (now Airbus Defense and Space of the Netherlands). Two-thirds of the €360 million costs were funded by the Netherlands.

“It was great to see our robotic arm in space for the first time,” says Philip Schöneggans, ERA Project Leader at the European Space Agency. Schoonejans and colleagues followed progress at Estec, the ESA center in Noordwijk, via a secure video link with the Russian mission command just outside Moscow.

Fourteen years of delay

“If it weren’t for that we would have been there, but no one has traveled to Russia since the invasion,” Schoneghans says. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, cooperation on the International Space Station came into question. Even Dmitry Rogozin, the director of the Russian Space Agency appointed by Vladimir Putin, threatened to crash the International Space Station over Europe or the United States, but no concrete action was taken.

The directors of NASA and the European Space Agency announced that cooperation on the International Space Station, a project by Russia, the United States, Canada, Japan and the European Space Agency, is one of the few projects that will continue at the moment. The robotic arm was launched on July 21, 2021, attached to the Russian ISS Nauka unit, after a 14-year delay due to technical issues with that unit.

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During the spacewalk, the ERA’s protective thermal blankets were removed, and an adapter was installed on which cargo could be prepared for transport with the ERA. The Russian cosmonauts will follow four more spacewalks to install and test ERA. “It’s designed to carry payloads of up to eight tons in conditions of weightlessness, and you can’t really test that on the ground, even though we simulated a lot,” says Schoonejans.

You’re wearing a huge spacesuit, everything is floating away

Philip Schonigans Project manager

After a potential standby mission by ESA Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, the ERA has to tackle its first real mission in August: installing a large radiator, a type of cooling pad that allows the Nauka unit to radiate excess heat. This is followed by the installation of an airlock, through which equipment for scientific experiments can be brought outside.

One of the next parts is a platform at the end of the ERA, where the spacewalker can stand as if on a cherry picker. During yesterday’s spacewalk, handles were attached to the ERA in case the robot arm malfunctioned and the astronaut had to manually maneuver to safety.

Schoonejans: “They didn’t get on those handles very well at first. With such a relatively simple task, you can see how hard it is to work during a spacewalk. You’re wearing a huge spacesuit, everything just floats away, and these gloves are thick and antique. At one point The handle was struck by hand. But it worked.”