Dutch robotic arm finally reaches into space

Illustration: ESA
Illustration: ESA

A massive robotic arm, built by a Leiden-based company, will finally be heading into space later this month, 35 years after it was first designed.

The launch of the European Robotic Arm (ERA), over 11 metres long and costing some €360m, was delayed repeatedly because of technical difficulties but will now take place at the Bailonur Cosmodrome in Russia later this month.

The arm will be doing the heavy lifting at international space station ISS, and act as a type of scaffolding to inspect the outside of the space station for damage, Netherlands Space Office spokesman Jasper Wamsteker told RTL Nieuws.

‘The arm can also transport materials from the inside of the station to outside and that means astronauts will not have to venture out as much. It can also move astronauts from one place to another,’ he said.

The ERA was originally supposed to be transported to the ISS in 2002, but that trip did not go ahead. Nor did other plans to launch it in 2007 and 2012.

The arm is the work of company Airbus Defence and Space, formerly known as Fokker Ruimtevaart. Some €235m of the total bill has been picked up by the Netherlands.

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