Intelligent remote-controlled space robots should save costs and relieve astronauts
Cologne/Baikonur - For German space robotics, the successful launch of the Russian space ship Progress M51 is the beginning of an important and long-awaited test. The Soyuz U-rocket with the Progress spacecraft was launched on 24 December 2004 at 03.20 local time (23 December, 23.20 CET) from launch pad No. 5 of the Russian spaceport Baikonur. Also on board was the ROKVISS (Robotics Components Verification on the ISS) technology experiment - an approximately 50-centimetre robot arm with two joints, a metal finger and two integrated cameras.
At the beginning of December 2004, the German robot arm had successfully completed all final tests in Baikonur. At the end of January 2005, it is to be mounted on an outer platform of the International Space Station ISS, where it is to prove its suitability for space travel. In March 2005, the experiments, which are supervised and evaluated by DLR in Oberpfaffenhofen, will begin.
Important project for German space industry and research
The project is financed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) with funds from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The hardware and software has been developed and built by EADS Space Transportation in Bremen as prime contractor and the DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics in Oberpfaffenhofen, which is responsible for the robotic components and the execution of experiments as well as the scientific evaluation of the results. The Munich-based company Kayser-Threde is responsible for the development and construction of the experiment computer, the power supply and technical support for the DLR institute. The company Hoerner & Sulger supplies the camera equipment with electronic accessories. The project is managed by DLR's Space Agency in Bonn. The execution of the mission is based on an agreement between DLR's Space Agency, the Russian partners of Roskosmos and RKK Energija and the Munich-based company Kayser-Threde as prime contractor for the S-band communication infrastructure.
The costs for the ROKVISS experiment amount to 11.5 million euros, including 3.5 million euros for launch, assembly and operation on the ISS, which Germany pays to the Russian contract partners.