An Adorable Floating Robot Is Helping Astronauts on the ISS

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has unveiled the first images captured by its spherical camera drone on the International Space Station. ¿Int-Ball¿ arrived at the ISS on June 4

The International Space Station isn't thought of as a volley ball court or other sport played with a ball, but there is now a ball rolling around the ISS only this one take images and movies. According to JAXA, ISS astronauts now spend around 10 per cent of their working hours taking photos and video.

The robot enables scientists and flight controllers on the ground to capture both images and videos remotely, providing them with the ability to "check the crew's work from the same viewpoint as the crew".

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) released the first photos and videos taken by the Internal Ball Camera, or "Int-Ball", a spherical camera that floats either autonomously or by remote control from crews on Earth.

Int-Ball was delivered to the ISS in a SpaceX cargo shipment last month - the company's first involving a reused Dragon cargo capsule - and is now operational, currently undergoing initial testing.

Astronauts onboard the ISS reportedly spend 10% of their time shooting photos, and Int-Ball's goal is to free up some of that time for other more important tasks.

While being manipulated through the JAXA Tsukuba Space Center, the drone's footage is checked in real-time before being fed back to the onboard crew.

The official name for the rather cute looking robot is the "Internal Ball Camera" drone, and it was sent specifically to document missions in zero G. The Int Ball can fly autonomously around the spaceship and, as you'd expect, it's nearly entirely made using 3D printing.

That means researchers on Earth can check the work and experiments of the crew in space as they're happening.

Numerous components used to to manufacture Int-Ball were produced by 3D-printing, and its design was adopted from pre-existing drone technology. As Int-Ball is so small and lightweight, it is able to move anywhere throughout the ISS, and record footage from any angle. The robot drone also has a built-in camera that looks for pink "3D Target Markers", which remind it where it is positioned.



Other news