SpaceX has announced that it will send its 15th cargo mission to the International Space Station on behalf of NASA. The mission will send 6,000 pounds of supplies through the Falcon 9 rocket. The vehicle will have shipments of food and water. The cargo will go directly to the six astronauts currently based on the ISS. In addition to the food and water, the cargo will also deliver new science experiments and new technologies that will be tested there under microgravity conditions.
But what’s more interesting is that SpaceX will also send a new AI robot as a crew member. This would be the first time that a robot is sent to space to live with the crew on the ISS. The robot features a very simple design, and it looks more like a volleyball. On one side of it there’s a large computer screen which displays a cartoon face that will be used by astronauts to engage and interact with the AI.
The bot is also equipped with 14 internal fans designed to enhance its mobility. The robot will be able to move around the ISS very easily, and astronauts will just need to call out the bot’s name. The new AI was developed by Airbus for the German Space Agency. The goal here is to try to understand if it’s possible for robots to interact with humans at the ISS in order to simplify work at the station.
The AI was trained by the German astronaut Alexander Gerst who’s already at the ISS. As soon as the bot arrives on the ISS, the first step will be to greet it. After that, the AI will be used to help with a number of experiments. For instance, the AI can be used to walk the astronauts through a set of complex procedures at the ISS. The bot will display pictures on its screen to guide the astronauts.
So far the robot is basically on its test phase so it will be able to interact with the crew members at the ISS for only three hours a day. However, these tests could pave the way for the development of more advanced AIs that could be used to streamline space experiments in the future. In addition to the AI, SpaceX will also send a number of temperature-sensing instruments that will be attached on the outer side of the ISS. The instruments will be able to take temperature readings of plants on Earth from space. This information can then be used by scientists to assess just how stressed out our planet is.
A used Falcon 9 and Dragon cargo capsule will be employed for this mission. This is the third time that SpaceX is flying refurbished rockets and Dragon capsules into space. The Falcon 9 will take off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 5.42 AM ET on Friday. NASA will also cover the launch at 5:15 AM ET on NASA TV.