ESA: Europe Keeps Space Station Operating

PARIS, May 13 (UPI) — The European Space Agency says European science and manufacturing is keeping the International Space Station in operation.

“Already now, more than a third of the pressurized station elements are built and designed in Europe and European knowhow is keeping station in operation,” Simonetta Di Pippo, the ESA’s director of human spaceflight, said.

Additional spare parts from Europe will be aboard space shuttle Atlantis, scheduled to lift off Friday on its final planned mission to the space station.

Included will be spare portions of the European Robotic Arm, scheduled for launch in 2012. The space agency said it will be the second “intelligent” robot arm for the space station. The first, used for ISS assembly for nearly 10 years, is Canadarm-2.

The European arm will be used to service the Russian segment of the ISS and to transfer small payloads directly to space via a special airlock, liberating astronauts from time-consuming, fatiguing and potentially hazardous tasks outside the station, ESA scientists said.

The European arm’s other spare parts can be delivered later on smaller, unmanned craft, but the ESA said the long and bulky composite of two limbs and elbow joint needed the shuttle’s help.

Atlantis was to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 2:20 p.m. EDT Friday.

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