The Canadian Space Agency is providing the International Space Station with an "arm" so strong that it can lift a Space Shuttle arriving from Earth with a fully-loaded cargo bay.
The 55-ft. arm, called the Space Station Remote Manipulator System, is part of Canada's Mobile Servicing System maintenance and repair kit for the ISS. Attached at the end of the arm is a 12-ft. "hand," or Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, formed by a small robot that will be used in jobs requiring more refined and flexible control.
A Mobile Base System supports the arm and hand once added, it will move along rails attached to the ISS's aluminum framework much as a locomotive moves a flatcar-mounted crane at a construction project. Operators will be aided by an artificial vision system like the one used to help in the installation of the Shuttle docking system on Mir in 1995.
Like the Space Shuttle's "Canadarm," the Mobile Servicing System will be used for ISS assembly, maintenance and payload servicing. Both arms are made by Spar Aerospace of Toronto, but the ISS second-generation arm uses more advanced technology, is much stronger and more flexible, and moves with substantially greater precision.
Once the System is fully operational, both ends of its arm will be able to attach to the ISS. This will allow either end to switch roles from serving as the attached base to operating as a payload manipulator, a feature that effectively will permit the arm to "walk" along the truss structure.
The System is designed to reduce the time it will take to assemble, service, supply and run the Station, and to increase safety by reducing the number of spacewalks required to get those jobs done. It provides a workstation that allows its operators to work inside.
For more information on the Canadian Mobile Servicing System, link to http://www.asc-csa.gc.ca.