Space Station's Robotic Repairman Moves In
The International Space Station's Dextre robot is shown attached to the U.S. Destiny lab via a camera on the orbiting lab's exterior.
Credit: NASA TV.

This story was updated at 9:21 p.m. EDT.

HOUSTON - The International Space Station?s (ISS) new mechanical maintenance man officially moved in Tuesday when astronauts attached it to the exterior of the orbiting laboratory?s U.S. Destiny module.

Until today, the Canadian-built robot Dextre remained fixed on the platform that ferried it to the ISS inside the cargo bay of NASA?s shuttle Endeavour. But after three separate spacewalks to add hands, arms, camera eyes and a tool belt of sorts to the massive robot, Dextre is settled onto its new orbital residence.

?Dextre is now grappled the lab?s grapple facility,? said ISS flight director Kwatsi Alibahuro in an evening briefing here at NASA?s Johnson Space Center.

Built by the Canadian Space Agency, Dextre is a 3,440-pound (1,560-kilogram) robot designed to fill in for astronauts to replace batteries and perform other routine repair jobs that would otherwise expose a flesh-and-blood spaceflyer to the added risk of a spacewalk. Its two 11-foot (3.4-meter) long arms are tipped with hand-like grippers sensitive to light touches, can lift up to 1,323 pounds (600 kg) and position hardware with an accuracy of about 1/12 of an inch (2 mm).

?He looks like a gunfighter with his sidearm raised,? shuttle commander Dominic Gorie said earlier today as he described the two-armed Dextre to Mission Control.

The $209-million robot is Canada?s latest addition to the ISS, where it joined its simpler Canadarm2 cousin and a railcar-mounted work platform known as the Mobile Base System.

Astronauts plucked the 12-foot (3.7-meter) tall Dextre free of its cargo pallet crib early Tuesday using the station?s Canadarm2 robotic arm. They left the robot hanging out in space overnight and attached it to a grapple point on NASA?s Destiny laboratory at about 7:59 p.m. EDT (2359 GMT) tonight after performing some final tests.

About the only glitch came when astronauts commanded the robot to pivot on its waist joint.

Instead of moving in the expected direction, Dextre turned in the exact opposite way, Alibahuro said. The glitch is minor and may be due to a simple, yet errant, minus sign in one of the robot?s computer files, he added.

Dextre?s electrical hardware and arm joint brakes have already passed their own system checks, mission managers have said.

?We got it all up and running, so Dextre is alive,? Endeavour mission specialist Robert Behnken said this week.

Behnken and crewmate Rick Linnehan outfitted Dextre with waist-mounted cameras and tool kit platform during a Monday spacewalk to prepare the robot for its move to the station?s hull. Two earlier spacewalks delivered the robot?s hands and arms.

With Dextre stowed on the Destiny lab - where it is expected to stay through at least NASA?s next shuttle mission to fly in late May - astronauts aboard the ISS will retrieve the robot?s carrier platform from a perch on the station?s first portside truss segment and return it to Endeavour?s payload bay for the trip home.

The astronauts are also due to take a few hours off tonight to catch their breath as they pass the midpoint of their 16-day construction mission to the ISS. That off-duty time is scheduled to begin at about 12:28 a.m. EDT (0428 GMT) Wednesday morning.

In addition to delivering Dextre, Gorie and his crew have swapped out one member of the station?s three-person crew and installed the first piece of Japan?s massive laboratory Kibo (Japanese for ?Hope?), an attic-like module, for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The astronauts are also slated to test a shuttle heat shield method that uses a space age caulk gun to fill in dinged belly tiles with a pink ablative goo during a Thursday spacewalk, then inspect the station?s balky starboard solar array joint in a Saturday excursion.

Alibahuro said mission managers are also planning to call on Endeavour?s spacewalking team to reattempt the installation of a stubborn materials experiment to the ISS exterior during their Saturday spacewalk. Astronauts had trouble trying to install the experiment in a Monday spacewalk.

Endeavour and its seven-astronaut crew are in the midst of a record-long construction flight to the ISS. They are due to depart the station on March 24 and return to Earth in the evening of March 26.

NASA is broadcasting Endeavour's STS-123 mission live on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com's shuttle mission coverage and NASA TV feed.