European Robotic Arm

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The ISS module Nauka with the ERA (computer graphics) attached

The European Robotic Arm ( ERA , English for European Robotic Arm ) is a robotic arm designed by ESA and built in Europe to operate from the Russian segment of the International Space Station .


The development and construction of the ERA was commissioned by ESA as an international project. Several European companies from eight countries are participating in the project under the leadership of the main Dutch contract partner Dutch Space . The basic idea is to expand the effective area of ​​the Canadarm2 , as it is not able to move on the Russian station segment and therefore cannot reach all areas of the station. In addition, a redundant system should be created for a possible failure of the Canadarm2.

Furthermore, ERA is used to test and research operational robot technology itself, as it is intended to work largely independently and is the first system of its kind designed by ESA. The other two robotic arms, Canadarm2 and Strela, on the other hand, are mainly controlled manually and are based on successful predecessor systems.

Start and installation

According to current plans ERA should, together with the Russian research module Nauka (MLM), aboard a Russian Proton-M rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome be brought out to the space station. The start of the assigned construction flight 3R was originally planned for 2009, should then take place in 2014, but was delayed again and again due to several technical problems and is now planned for 2021. Before the installation of the ERA, the airlock, a radiator and spare parts for the ERA were delivered as part of the shuttle transport flight for the Rasswet module ( STS-132 ) . In space, these pieces of equipment will later be attached to Nauka by the ERA.

ERA was delivered to Russia in the summer of 2006 in order to integrate it with Nauka and to check the function of the system. After installation on the ISS, the MLM will be the output module for ERA and, in addition to several supply points, also contains the control stand, which enables the crew to operate the robot arm from inside the ISS. In addition, it will also be possible to control the robot arm outside the station during an outboard operation . When controlling from inside the station, briefly referred to as IVA-MMI (Intra Vehicular Activity-Man Machine Interface), a laptop is used on which the astronaut can observe the arm and its surroundings. When controlling the arm during an exit, the EVA-MMI (Extra Vehicular Activity-Man Machine Interface), a specially adapted control module is used, which is specially designed for operation of the spacesuits with bulky gloves .


Following the example of the Canadian robot arm Canadarm2 already installed on the ISS, ERA will be able to operate from various supply points in the Russian segment. For this purpose, ERA will be able to move around freely using the so-called Power and Data Grapple Fixtures , similar to a caterpillar . Some of the activities performed by ERA will run completely automatically, i.e. without direct operation by a member of the ISS crew, or run semi-automatically. This should ensure precise work and also enable the crew to pursue other activities. In addition to inspection work and the transport of experiments, ERA will also bring the astronauts themselves to their locations, which enables them to move much faster during field missions.

The tasks of the ERA include:

  • Suspending and reloading experiments in free space
  • Inspection and video surveillance of the station
  • Assistance during space operations
  • Installation and erection of solar panels
  • Replacement and repair of solar panels
  • Handling external payloads


The individual components of ERA
  • Two approximately 5 m long, symmetrical arm sections made of CFRP ( limbs )
  • Two identical end effectors (EE) that can also transfer data, power and mechanical drive to payloads
  • Two wrists with three joints each
  • A connection similar to the elbow
  • A central control computer in the arm ( ERA Control Computer (ECC) )
  • Four cameras and associated lighting units (Camera and Light Units (CLU) )

Technical specifications

  • Total length: 11.3 m
  • Operating radius: 9.7 m
  • Mass: 630 kg
  • Maximum payload: 8 t
  • Maximum movement speed: 0.1 m / s
  • Positioning accuracy: 5 mm
  • Energy consumption: 475 W on average, 800 W maximum
  • Operating voltage: 120 V DC

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. FGB-2 / MLM. Russian Space Web, October 4, 2016, accessed December 28, 2016 .
  2. Alain Chabot: Russia to bump its ISS crew back to three. Russian Space Web, October 24, 2017, accessed October 25, 2017 .
  3. Anatoly Zak: Nauka's launch pushed back to May 2021 . (Registration required) Russian Space Web, May 18, 2020; Summary on Twitter.