SpaceX Will Send a New Robotic Hand Up to the International Space Station

Sunday, 24 June 2018 - 2:34PM
Space
Robotics
SpaceX
Sunday, 24 June 2018 - 2:34PM
SpaceX Will Send a New Robotic Hand Up to the International Space Station
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NASA
Next week, SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 rocket containing important cargo to resupply the International Space Station, which they've done several times in the past.

But what makes this latest resupply mission so interesting is a particular piece of robotics coming along for the ride - a hand, specifically. SpaceX is about to send a new mechanical hand made for the International Space Station's resident robotic arm and unofficial seventh crew member, Canadarm2.

The hand and other supplies and science experiments will travel to the ISS onboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule, which will travel the rest of the way to the space station once it detaches from the Falcon 9 rocket. Since SpaceX puts a big focus on recycling their expensive technology, both the Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule have been used before in other missions. 



Canadarm2, much like the name implies, is a robot arm created by the Canadian Space Agency which is 58 feet (17.7 meters) in length. It sits on the exterior of the space station, usually holding onto spacecrafts and satellites which visit the station. It recently deployed the RemoveDEBRIS satellite (which will clean up space junk with nets and a harpoon) for its first field test, and in fact, it usually grabs onto Dragon capsules when the arrive.

And while Canadarm2 often fares better than the experimental robotic astronaut which spent most of its ISS career being busted, the robotic arm is still occasionally in need of repairs. Whenever this happens, a spacewalk is usually in order, and two astronauts suit up to travel outside the ISS and fix up the arm.

In this case, Canadarm2 broke its Latching End Effector (LEE) last year, which is a fancy name for what's essentially just the "hand" part of it, with fingers for grabbling and grabbing onto spacecrafts. There isn't expected to be any trouble when the SpaceX Dragon capsule docks, but it's better to fix these things before things get serious.

So soon enough, Canadarm2 should be in good shape. Until the next time it inevitably breaks down.
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