A new robotic arm for the International Space Station made its first successful moves when two Russian cosmonauts performed the 250th spacewalk to service and upgrade the outpost.
Expedition 67 flight engineers Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev on Thursday (April 28) continued work they started on a spacewalk a week ago to equip and configure the new European Robotic Arm (ERA) for use in the Russian segment. of the space station. Its 7-hour, 42-minute spacewalk culminated with the remote manipulator taking its first small steps around the exterior of the orbital complex.
“He started moving. Yes, he started moving!” exclaimed Artemyev as one of the arm’s two end effectors, separated from his three-hour, four-minute grab point on the spacewalk. The move marked the arm’s first move since before it was launched to the station with the Nauka multi-purpose science module in July 2021.
Spacewalks: How it works and key landmarks
The ERA, provided by the European Space Agency (ESA), is the first arm capable of serving the overseas Russian segment of the station. The other arms of the complex, Canadarm2 and the Japanese Experimental Module Remote Manipulation System (JEMRMS), are in the US Operating Segment (USOS) of the station and cannot extend far enough to reach many of the necessary areas on the Russian side.
Like Canadarm2, ERA moves like a worm, positioning itself side by side between fixed base points. The 37-foot-long (11.3-meter) robotic arm can be driven both in and out of the station.
To get to the point of the first move, Artemyev and Matveev first opened the hatch and exited the Poisk mini-survey module at 10:58 am EDT (1458 GMT) to begin the spacewalk. After using the Strela boom – the manually operated arm that before ERA was the only means of moving cosmonauts and equipment around the Russian segment – to get to the job site next to the Nauka module, astronauts began removing the insulation that covered the end of the effector arm or hands.
Once in hand, Artemyev threw the bundled insulation overboard for its eventual destructive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
“3…2…1…go towards the horizon!” said Artemyev as the isolation slipped out of his grip. “It’s moving very well.”
After releasing the launch locks by holding one end of the arm and seeing it move based on commands sent by cosmonaut Sergey Korsakov from inside the space station, Artemyev and Matveev continued configuring the ERA. The two released actuators, allowing for arm tightening, released additional release latches and installed handrails to facilitate work on and around the device.
The cosmonauts then stepped back to watch as the arm “walked out” from its launch tethers to base points on the Nauka module. Following Korsakov’s commands, ERA released one of its claws from its launch pad and then reached out to grab a base point on Nauka. Korsakov then repeated this process with the other “hand” of the ERA.
A third move to verify that the third of the three base points was operational was postponed to a future spacewalk.
As the arm was still moving, Artemyev moved to the Prichal node attached to the base of the Nauka module to inspect an antenna used for docking Soyuz and Progress visiting vehicles. The antenna could only be partially deployed. Artemeyev discovered that the problem was a stuck cable, which he released, and Russian flight controllers were able to fully extend the antenna.
Artemyev and Matveev also took a break to photograph a Victory Banner commemorating the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945.
After the arm grabbed its second base point, the two cosmonauts re-entered the Poisk module and closed its hatch at 18:40 EDT (2240 GMT), marking the official end of the spacewalk.
Thursday’s extravehicular activity (EVA) was the fifth in Artemyev’s career. He now has 34 hours and 39 minutes of work in the vacuum of space.
This was the second spacewalk for Matveev, who has now spent 14 hours and 19 minutes outside the International Space Station.
The EVA was the fifth on the space station in 2022 and the 250th supporting the assembly and maintenance of the orbital laboratory in general. In total, astronauts and cosmonauts have spent 1,583 hours and 44 minutes (or 65 days, 22 hours and 44 minutes) on spacewalks outside the International Space Station since 1998.
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