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MFD: Japan's First Robot Arm Flight Demonstration Test

The highly sophisticated robot arm onboard JEM (JEMRMS) plays an important role for the efficient operations of JEM. Therefore, its functions and performance, including controllability under a microgravity environment, must be well verified prior to the JEM launch. However, its functions and performances in the microgravity environment can not be fully verified on the ground because of the effects of gravity. For example, compliance control which regulates force applied to the arm when grappling an ORU and the friction drag of the robot arm joints will be verified in this mission. In addition, crew operability of the robot arm will also be affected by the crew's reaction to the microgravity environment.

Therefore, the Manipulator Flight Demonstration (MFD) is planned to demonstrate the functions and performance of a robot arm similar to the JEMRMS Small Fine Arm using the Space Shuttle prior to a JEM launch. The robot arm will be installed in the Shuttle Orbiter cargo bay and operated by crew members in the Aft Flight Deck of the Shuttle Orbiter using hand controllers. The functions and the performance of the robot arm in the space environment will be confirmed, the Orbital Replacement Unit (ORU) detachment/attachment function and the hinged door opening/closing function will be demonstrated, and an advanced experiment to control the robot arm from the ground will be conducted. In addition to these robot arm experiments, the Evaluation of Space environment and Effects on Materials (ESEM) and the Two-Phase Fluid Loop Experiment (TPFLEX) will be conducted as piggyback experiments.

The MFD is scheduled for launch on STS-85 (Space Shuttle Discovery) on August 7, 1997.

Configuration of the MFD Shuttle Onboard System

The MFD Shuttle Onboard System (MFD payload) consists of the Payload Bay (PLB) element and the Aft Flight Deck (AFD) element. The PLB element consists of the Robot Arm, the Orbital Replacement Unit (ORU), the hinged door, and other elements. The AFD element consists of the hand controllers, TV monitors, and other elements.

In addition, included in the PLB elements are the ESEM experiment to acquire material degradation characteristics in the space environment and cosmic dust data, and the TPFLEX experiments for the research and development of an active thermal control technology.


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