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Astrium tests robot for the ISS

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Thu Jul 5, 2007 2:01 pm
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(EADS Astrium) – In collaboration with ESA and Thales Alenia Space, Astrium has successfully tested a new type of robot for the International Space Station. It has been designed to support astronauts in performing extra-vehicular activities.

Cologne – The tests were carried out at ESA’s European Astronaut Centre in Cologne. Divers simulated an extra-vehicular mission in an underwater basin using a 1:1 model of the Columbus laboratory. The robot accompanied the diver, providing assistance and handling a toolbox. For astronauts on the space station, extra-vehicular activities, usually known as EVAs, constitute difficult and often time-consuming work that may take several hours. Moreover, the astronauts have to handle the material and the tools with extreme care. The toolboxes they carry with them, as they move from one activity to the next or back to the station, are bulky, and all the parts must be carefully put away again after each mission.

In future, Eurobot will support the astronauts on these extra-vehicular missions. The robot has three arms which it can use to grip the handrails of the Columbus laboratory, for instance, and pull itself along these rails. The intelligent robot system can relieve the astronaut of tools he no longer needs, it can open and close boxes, “tidy up” on completion of the EVA, and put away the objects that have been used. This not only increases the astronaut’s safety, but also saves him precious time.

In this international ESA project, the Astrium team (Thomas Hülsing, Hans-Georg Backhaus, Ingo Ahrns, Manfred Doermer) is responsible for the “head unit” containing the video system and the Eurobot Control Station (ECoS) which is needed for overall mission planning. “Everything worked perfectly, the team has done a really good job,” remarks project manager Dr. Stephane Estable. “This successful demonstration has shown that we at Astrium possess excellent know-how in robotics that could be extremely useful in future ISS operations,” comments Dr. Wolfgang Paetsch, head of Automation & Robotics in the Orbital Systems business unit (TO).

The robot system is designed for use on the ISS over the medium term, but it may be deployed on missions to Mars or to the moon as part of the ESA Aurora programme in the more distant future.

About Astrium

Astrium, a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS, is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services. In 2006, EADS Astrium had a turnover of €3.2 billion and 12,000 employees in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Its three main areas of activity are: the business units Astrium Space Transportation for launchers and orbital infrastructure, and Astrium Satellites for spacecraft and ground segment, and its wholly owned subsidiary Astrium Services for the development and delivery of satellite services.

EADS is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2006, EADS generated revenues of €39.4 billion and employed a workforce of more than 116,000.

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