Flight controllers have successfully used the International Space Station's robotic arm to power up a new addition to the space operation, a Canadian-built robot.

The robot, named Dextre, needed power to heat its joints, limbs and electronics in the frigid conditions of space, but the $200-million machine had been unable to power up since it was installed Thursday.

"Good news from the flight control room," Mission Control announced Friday night from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

"Dextre has power."

The successful power-up means NASA is on schedule for Saturday night's spacewalk to connect the robot's 11-foot arms to its torso. Once fully constructed, Dextre will become a helper for spacewalking astronauts and could ultimately take over some spacewalking jobs, cutting time and the potential risk to astronauts.

Canadian astronaut Julie Payette earlier in the day said the Canadian Space Agency engineers suspected the problem was due to a power cable connecting the robot's temporary carrier to Dextre.

The cable may have been picking up interference from other electrical devices on board the space station, said Payette at a press briefing at the CSA's headquarters in St. Hubert, Que.

"We suspect there could be noise or electronic field emissions from the station," she said. "When we tested the connection from the ground, it tested fine."

Dextre arrived at the station on Wednesday aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. On Thursday the Canadarm 2 grappled the carrier or pallet housing the robot's main body and attached it to the railway system that allows the Canadarm 2 to move around the station.

It was after this task was completed that the problems began, as Dextre did not respond to commands.

Since the pallet housing the cable is temporary and scheduled to return to Earth aboard Endeavour, space officials don't see the cable as a long-term issue if it is indeed the problem.

Power assist

To test the faulty cable theory, engineers used Canadarm 2 to grab Dextre on Friday night in an attempt to power the robot through the station's robotic arm.

Canadian engineers had suspected the trouble might be with a timer and created a software patch on Friday to resolve the possible problem. The patch, however, had no effect.

Astronauts Rick Linnehan and Michael Foreman are scheduled to exit the space station on Saturday morning to attach arms and other components to Dextre.

The 1,540-kilogram robot, when assembled, is 3.7 metres high. It's designed to help spacewalkers with some of their maintenance chores, with the goal of reducing the amount of time astronauts spend outside.

Earlier Friday, astronauts on the space station attached hands to Dextre and also used the Canadarm 2 to move the Japanese storage compartment from the space shuttle Endeavour's cargo bay and attach it to the space station.

The storage compartment is the first of three parts of Japan's Kibo laboratory. The main part of the lab is scheduled to arrive in May aboard the space shuttle Discovery.

With files from the Associated Press