Astronauts launch a new robotic arm for the International Space Station

With the services of cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev completed during two recent spacewalks on the International Space Station (ISS), a previously malfunctioning robotic arm has begun to operate in the orbiting laboratory.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev is shown during his spacewalk as the new European robotic arm (ERA) makes its first movements outside the multipurpose science module at Nauka on the International Space Station (ISS). Image: NASA TV

On Thursday (28), in a work lasting 7 hours and 42 minutes, they continued the activities that began ten days ago to prepare and configure the European Robotic Arm (ERA) for use on the Russian part of the space station.

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At the end of the services, the tele-processor made his first small movements around the outer part of the orbital complex since his arrival with the Nauka multipurpose scientific unit in July 2021. “He started to move. Yes, he started to move!” Artemyev exclaimed.

The robotic arm was provided by the European Space Agency (ESA)

The ERA, provided by the European Space Agency (ESA), is the first robotic arm capable of servicing the Russian offshore portion of the station. The other arms of the complex, Canadarm2 and the Japanese Experiment Unit Remote Handling System (JEMRMS), are in the US Operating Segment (USOS) and cannot extend far enough to reach many necessary areas on the Russian side.

Like the Canadarm2, the ERA, which is 11.3 meters long, moves like a worm, walks from one end to the other, and can be driven in and out of the station.

To reach the point of first movement, Artemyev and Matveev first opened the hatch and exited the Poisk microscanning unit at 12:58 PM (GMT) to begin the spacewalk.

After using the Strela crane – the manually operated arm that before ERA was the only means of transporting astronauts and equipment across the Russian part – to reach its work site next to the Nauka module, the astronauts began work on removing it. Cover the edges of the device.

As soon as he had it within reach, Artemyev threw the packed protective thermal blanket toward Earth for a devastating re-entry into the atmosphere. “3…2…1…go toward the horizon!” , the astronaut said as he disposed of the device. “It moves very well.”

Oleg Artemyev has released a package with a thermal insulation covering removed from the European Robotic Arm (ERA) in preparation for the teleprocessor to make its first moves. Image: NASA TV

Guided by the orders of cosmonaut Sergei Korsakov from inside the space station, Artemyev and Matveev then began configuring the ERA, after releasing the launch locks and installing handrails to facilitate work in and around the device.

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The astronauts then stood back to watch the arm “walk” through the cardinal points on the Nauka module, following Korsakov’s orders. They were able to watch three successful moves being done repeatedly.

In addition to operating the ERA, Artemyev and Matveev also had to check the antenna used to dock the Soyuz and Progress visiting vehicles, which could only be partially deployed due to a failure. Artemeyev discovered that the problem lay with a stuck cable, and freed it, causing the Russian flight controllers to be able to extend the antenna completely.

The astronauts returned to the Poisk module and closed its door at 8:40 p.m., marking the official end of extravehicular activity (EVA), which was Artemyev’s fifth spacewalk and Matveev’s second.

In addition, this was the fifth spacewalk to be performed on the International Space Station in 2022, while it was the 250th flight made to generally support the assembly and maintenance of the in-orbit laboratory. In total, astronauts have spent 1,583 hours and 44 minutes (or 65 days, 22 hours and 44 minutes) in spacewalks outside the International Space Station since 1998.

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