Together with the site at Koeln, the DLR site at Oberpfaffenhofen is one of Germany's largest research centres. Located near the A96 motorway between Munich and Lindau, the site is home to eight scientific institues and currently employs approximately 1700 people. The research centre's main fields of activity include paricipating in space missions, climate research, research and development in the field of Earth observation, developing navigation systems and advanced robotics development.
Although only about 400 kilometres separate the Kontur-2 joystick and the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) ROKVISS robot, the remote control operations that took place on 18 August 2015 were truly special: Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, flying aboard the International Space Station (ISS) over Earth at 28,000 kilometres per hour, controlled the robot on the ground while in microgravity. The connection between space and Earth is not one-directional – the ROKVISS (Robotic Components Verification on the ISS) sends data back to the joystick when contact forces occur on the ground. At 16:37 CEST (ISS orbit 3775), the metal fingers of the robot moved for the first time – controlled remotely from space. “At that moment, Kononenko not only saw what was happening using a camera, but, through the joystick, felt exactly what was happening with the robot in our laboratory,” says Jordi Artigas from the DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics. In autumn 2015 the first ‘tele-handshake’ will be performed between the ISS and Earth with this technology, when the DLR Robot ‘Space Justin’ remotely shakes hands with someone on Earth from space – with force feedback.