The giant European Robotic Arm (ERA) looks set to be an important piece of equipment for the International Space Station.
To be delivered to Russia this summer in preparation for launch in 2007, the 11m-long robotic arm will transfer experimental equipment from the ISS, move astronauts around during space walks and use its video cameras to carry out inspections of external surfaces on the space station.
With the ability to move up to eight tonnes of equipment, ERA will perform a range of tasks in the harsh environment of space that are not suitable or possible to be carried out by people.
With its seven joints and an impressive concentration of tools and electronics, the arm has the flexibility to move hand-over-hand between fixed base points around the Russian segment of the ISS to perform its tasks.
This flexibility is enhanced by the fact that ERA can be operated from inside or outside the ISS and can be either pre-programmed or controlled in real time.
The project to produce ERA is a venture between ESA and the Russian federal space agency, Roscosmos.