Lending a hand: SpaceX makes delivery to ISS’s Canadarm2

The new Latching End Effector (LEE) is a backup "hand" in case of future problems
Canadarm2 Gotcha! The Canadarm2 will be able to reliably do its job for a lot longer thanks to a new delivery. (NASA)


On July 2, a recycled SpaceX Falcon rocket made a special delivery to the International Space Station, or ISS. A new "hand" for its "arm"!

It's actually not all that weird...

Embed from Getty Images

Canadarm2 showing off its satellite-grabbing skills in 2016. (Getty Embed)

The Canadarm2 is one of Canada's biggest contributions to space technology. It is a 17.6 metre (58 foot) long device that has been on board the ISS since 2001. Like the name suggests, it is shaped like an arm and is used to reach, grab, and manipulate large objects outside of the station in space. In fact, it is what is used to capture and release spacecrafts that are docking with the ISS.

Now that's handy!

Canadarm2 lee

One of the arm's hands, or LEEs. (NASA)

One of the key devices that lets the Canadarm2 do its thing are its hands—the Latching End Effectors, or LEEs, for short. These gadgets may not look like any hand that you would recognize. But in space, they are exceptional at creating secure connections between the ISS and other crafts. They also can release objects smoothly so that they don't tumble or roll off course as they re-enter orbit. (Trust us, that is way harder than it sounds...)

The Canadarm2 uses two LEEs to function. Currently, both are working great. But everyday wear and tear means that eventually, they will break down. The extra LEE in the cargo of this latest SpaceX/NASA mission is a backup to make sure that the ISS isn't never caught ... empty-handed.

Robots and snacks

That's not all that went up in space over the long weekend. For one, food and supplies were delivered ahead of Canadian astronaut David St. Jacques planned mission there in December. We can't wait to report more on that as the year moves on!

There was also CIMON, a 3D-printed German Space Agency AI bot that is going up to help astronauts with experiments. CIMON will allow them to access a huge amount of data so that they can fix problems quickly as they work. It's a lot easier than trying to talk over Skype from space. Not to mention that floating mini space bots are adorable!

Recycling is the future

And in addition to all of this cool stuff, let's not forget that this mission used SpaceX's revolutionary recycled Falcon rockets. Only a couple years ago, a rocket to space that could be fully reused was just a dream. Now, these incredible devices are regularly completing missions for NASA. A lot can happen in a few years!

Recycled rockets. Super-smart floating bots. A new hand for a giant arm. Space tech, you never cease to amaze us!


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