The International Space Station ISS is getting a major expansion coming from the Netherlands. A long robotic arm, which will sit on the outside of the floating lab, is launched today from Kazakhstan. He will arrive at his destination next week.
The robotic arm is the second great space news from the Netherlands this week. Yesterday, 18-year-old Oliver Daemen flew to the atmosphere with the richest man on earth Jeff Bezos. At 107 kilometers altitude, the Tilburger became the youngest astronaut ever.
Robotic arm is 11 meters long and weighs 600 kilos
European Robotic Arm (ERA), is the name of the robot arm that is not just a robot arm. It is 11 meters long, with a large ‘elbow’ in the middle, a hinge that allows it to maneuver. It weighs just over 600 kilograms and is capable of lifting objects of about 8,000 kilograms in space. It is to be used for jobs on the outside of the International Space Station (ISS). In this way, he can take spacewalkers to the place where they have to work. There are also cameras that can inspect the outside of the space station, so that the crew members can safely stay inside.
— Adri Mathlener (@Lupardi) July 20, 2021
Fantastic, André Kuipers thinks
Such a robot arm is very important for the ISS, says astronaut André Kuipers. “It’s a fantastic device. You can achieve more. Sometimes you don’t have to do a spacewalk because of that. You lose less time and you run less risk.”
Kuipers first went to space in 2004. He then took a scale model of the Dutch robot arm to the ISS. During his second flight, in 2011 and 2012, Kuipers should have installed the robot arm. He trained for the spacewalk, but in the end it didn’t work out. “Too bad, but you also train for things that don’t happen, just like things happen for which you have not trained. That’s part of it. But when he arrives, I will send a message to the ISS that I have sent them a present.”
André Kuipers also reacted yesterday to the youngest astronaut Oliver Daemen, whom he already met as a little boy:
Work on the robotic arm began in the 1980s
The fact that Kuipers already brought an ERA model with him in 2004 indicates how long the road to launch took. Work on the robotic arm began in the 1980s when it would become part of a European space shuttle. That project never got off the ground. Then the arm would land on a new Russian space station. Then Russia decided to stop that project and join the ISS. After that, a space shuttle was supposed to take the robotic arm to the ISS, but the United States stopped that program.
The Netherlands invested the most money in the space project
The technology from the 90s is still hidden under the hood of the robot arm, but it still works well, says Sytze Kampen. He led the development of the arm for the company Airbus Defense and Space from Leiden, the main contractor for the project. “If we had built it now, we would have basically done the same thing. We would have had better cameras, with which we could have seen more. We could have used artificial intelligence for extra security. But that security is already built in. The arm has a model of the ISS in its memory, so it knows exactly where it is and can prevent collisions against the wall of the space station itself.”
The development and construction of the arm cost approximately EUR 360 million. The Netherlands contributed about 240 million euros of this.
Young Dutchman (18) into space with Jeff Bezos and is now the youngest astronaut ever
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