April 17, 2002
A robotic arm on a car, in space
NASA's Mobile Transporter is on its way to space. The first of its kind, this module will circle Earth aboard the International Space Station. It is composed of a "flat car" able to move on a dedicated railway, that will ultimately stretch almost 100 meters along the structural backbone of the Station.
The "railcar" (on the upper left of the picture) will carry a huge robotic arm, Canadarm2, similar to the one aboard the Space Shuttle, whose agenda is to assemble the complex, carrying truss segments or solar arrays and helping install them.
Canadarm2 is developed by MD Robotics, which announced two days ago it has received $18 million from the Canadian Space Agency, an additional funding devoted to the finalization of the Mobile Servicing System (MSS), Canada's contribution to the International Space Station. MSS is a sophisticated robotic system that will play a major role in the assembly, maintenance and servicing of the Station. Apart from Canadarm2, it will be composed of a highly evolved two-armed robot, the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (on the right of the picture). According to MD Robotics, this 15 degrees of freedom robot "will be able to touch and feel much like a human" and will be used "to carry out delicate maintenance and servicing tasks", without requiring an astronaut performing spacewalks.
Picture: © MD Robotics (artist rendering)

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