On Wednesday morning, Russia will attempt to launch a Proton-M rocket towards the International Space Station. The aim of the mission is to deliver the new Russian module “Nauka” to the ISS, as well as a new elegant robotic arm built by a European consortium. You can watch the action live here.
The Proton-M carrier rocket is scheduled to launch at 10:58 a.m. EDT (7:58 a.m. PDT) on Wednesday, July 21 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. At the top of the rocket is a new ISS module officially known as the Russian Multipurpose Laboratory, but friends know it as Nauka. the European Robotic Arm (ERA), built for the European Space Agency, is in the game. NASA coverage of the launch begins at 10:30 a.m. EDT (7:30 a.m. PDT).
The cargo will not arrive at the ISS until July 29, when the module will dock at the nadir mooring point of the Zvezda service module, according to in Roscosmos. This port is currently occupied by the Pirs mooring compartment, which has been in service for 20 years. Pirs will detach from the ISS on Friday July 23 then burn on re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere (this procedure depends on the successful launch of the Nauka module). As a NASA space flight reports, Pirs will be the first ISS module “to be decommissioned and removed from the outpost.”
Roscomos says that Nauka is “intended to extend the functionality of the Russian segment of the International Space Station”. The new segment will offer more space for carrying out experiments and store cargo and equipment (including water and oxygen regeneration equipment) and go “Improve the living conditions of cosmonauts.
Once deployed and operational, ERA will be the first robotic joint to serve Russian segments of the ISS. The 37-foot-long arm has autonomous capabilities and will be able to “walk” along the exterior of the ISS. Moving like a caterpillar, the arm will lock its ends to the anchors on the surface of the orbital outpost.
ESA astronauts Thomas Pesquet, Matthias Maurer, and Samantha Cristoforetti will support the installation of the arm, both from inside and outside the ISS. Arm installation will require five spacewalks, according to at ESA. The first tasks of the new arm will be to set up an airlock and a radiator for the Nauka module.
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