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ESA giving a spare arm to International Space Station

Artist's impression of the European Robotic Arm (ERA). An ESA photo

PARIS (BNS): Spare portions of the European Robotic Arm (ERA) and the first Russian payloads to use the arm will be delivered to the International Space Station when space shuttle Atlantis lifts off on its final mission Friday.

The Shuttle’s main cargo is Russia’s Mini Research Module 1 (MRM-1), with ERA’s spare mid-section attached. Atlantis will also carry the MLM airlock, a portable work platform and an MLM radiator.

ERA is the second 'intelligent' robot arm for the International Space Station. The first, used extensively for ISS assembly for almost 10 years, is Canadarm-2 – an iconic part of the ISS photos.

The second arm scheduled for launch in 2012, will be based on Russia’s Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM), from where it can 'walk' to other locations, ESA said.

"Launching the ERA spare arm is an important step in keeping the ability for demanding robotic operations in case of technical failures – these may happen during the prolonged life of the ISS," said Simonetta Di Pippo, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight.

ERA will be used to service the Russian segment of the space station and to transfer small payloads directly to space via MLM’s special airlock, liberating astronauts from time-consuming, fatiguing and potentially hazardous tasks outside the station.

Atlantis is scheduled for lift-off Friday at 1820 GMT from Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral in Florida.

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