The European Robotic Arm (ERA) will help space lab residents with all kinds of household chores in the coming years, including spacewalks, inspections and science experiments. It can even wander around the outer wall of the International Space Station.
The 11-meter robotic arm was launched last Wednesday from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The capsule that will bring ERA to the International Space Station has suffered from engine problems in Earth orbit. In addition, the system by which the capsule must dock is stumbled on the International Space Station. For four days, it was exciting that everything was going well, but it worked. The ship should reach the International Space Station with the robot’s arm around 3.25pm Dutch time.
ERA is linked to a new Russian extension to the International Space Station, the Nauka (Science) module.
Work on ERA began as early as the 1980s, but plans were changed several times and the launch was repeatedly delayed. Dutch astronaut André Kuipers was supposed to receive a robotic arm in 2012 when he was living on the International Space Station, but that failed.
The development and construction of the arm cost around 360 million euros. The Netherlands contributed about 240 million euros of this. The main contractor is Airbus Defense and Space in Leiden. It was founded in the 1960s under the name Fokker Ruimtevaart and was later called the Dutch Space.