As part of the European contribution to the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS), the European Robotic Arm (ERA) is designed under contract from the European Space Agency by Fokker Space as the Prime contractor. After the launch in 1999, ERA operations will first begin with the assembly of the Russian segment and then later continue with the routine tasks such as inspection, maintenance, freight handling, etc.
The particularly challenging aspect of the ERA thermal design is to enable ERA to operate under all possible, but wide, in-orbit thermal environmental conditions which are to be experienced throughout its 10 year life. These can be between the extreme cold conditions without sunlight for hibernation to the extreme hot conditions with ERA operating in full sunlight in close vicinity to a large station item, for instance, the solar arrays.
First a short description of the ERA system is given, then the thermal requirements and the main thermal design features are presented. Also an overview of the thermal control design cases analysis is given. The design case definition is the outcome of a comprehensive analysis involving both the natural and the induced thermal environmental parameters. Attention is also drawn to the analysis tools which had to account for the fact that the thermal design was performed under the responsibility of different subcontractors. Finally, the on-going verification and qualification program is briefly addressed.