intball-ed

International Space Station just got a new robotic member on their team going by the name Int-Ball. Int-Ball is a round-shaped camera able to float along with the astronauts, complete with big round blue eyes to make it even more adorable. It could easily be a part of any futuristic or space-oriented Disney movie. First shots that this little guy took have just been released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The Int-Ball has the option of moving on its own or being controlled by operators who are back on Earth, and the images it takes are sent to JAXA center in almost near-time, which makes it possible for JAXA staff to find out the cause of potential problems faster and offer solutions to astronauts at the International Space Station.

The Int-Ball’s presence at the station could help astronauts in becoming more productive. According to JAXA, around 10 percent of the time they spend at the station, astronauts are holding a camera, taking pictures of work or equipment that might need to be repaired. This is where Int-Ball comes in to help: a floating camera drone could do what previously had to be done by hand, which would, in theory, give more time for crew members to focus on other issues.

Int-Ball joined the crew at the ISS on June 4th, SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and a (for the first time) reused Dragon cargo capsule being its transportation method of choice. Its current residence is inside the station’s Kibo science module.

The anatomy of the Int-Ball is interesting. In its center, the drone which measures 15cm in diameter has a three-axis control unit. This control unit is connected to the 12 fans placed near the surface of the Int-Ball, making the robot able to adjust its position in zero gravity. There are a navigation camera and a recording camera, the first’s job being to look out for so-called 3d Target Makers that are put as reference points on the ship. The camera responsible for recording the footage on the ship is conveniently placed between the robot’s “eyes” so the astronauts could easily know in which direction to point the lens.

The operators at JAXA are working on improving the robot’s functions so it can be even more helpful and able to easily move on its own around the station. The cuteness level is already through the roof.

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