New Robotic Arm Being Set Up Before Crew Ship Switches Ports

The city lights of northwest America, highlighted by an aurora, are pictured as the space station orbited above.

Russia’s Nauka multipurpose laboratory module continues being outfitted today before operations begin with Europe’s new robotic arm. In the meantime, three Expedition 65 crewmates are preparing to move their Soyuz crew ship to a new port on the International Space Station next week.

Soon, there will be three robotic arms from three different countries operating on the orbiting lab. The newest arm, the European robotic arm (ERA), was delivered in July attached to Nauka. ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet joined Roscosmos Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov inside Nauka today and configured ERA controller hardware and software. The other two robotic manipulators are Japan’s robotic arm which services the Kibo laboratory module, and the Canadarm2 robotic arm which captures and installs spaceships, maneuvers spacewalkers, and performs other fine-controlled tasks on the station.

The three NASA Flight Engineers, Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough, and Mark Vande Hei, worked in the station’s U.S. segment on science and maintenance activities throughout Wednesday. Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) worked primarily in the Kibo laboratory module on space biology activities.

McArthur started her day replacing fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack before swabbing microbe samples from station surfaces for later analysis. Kimbrough disassembled an old device that measured electrical charges building up around the station’s main solar arrays. Finally, Vande Hei serviced communications hardware inside Kibo then moved on and switched samples inside the Materials Science Laboratory.

Three-time Roscosmos Flight Engineer Oleg Novitskiy checked components inside the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship today before it moves to a new port next week. He will be flanked by Vande Hei and Dubrov inside the Soyuz when it undocks from the Rassvet module on Thursday, Sept. 30, at 8:21 a.m. EDT. They will dock less than 45 minutes later to Nauka for the first time.