International Space Station, JAXA, Robotics, Science and Technology, Space Programs, Space Stations, Technology

Japan Has A Cute New Space Robot

INT-BAL is JAXA's floating robot designed to monitor activity on the International Space Station.
Japan Has A Cute New Space Robot

For the first time the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) has released images and videos from the JEM Internal Ball Camera called “Int-Ball”. It’s the first ever camera based drone that can record video in space, while being controlled by remote on the ground.

The INT-BAL, or the cutest damn robot you’ve ever seen, was delivered to the International Space Station on June 4, 2017. It’s currently undergoing verification testing while aboard the Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo”.

INT-BAL Features

The camera will float within the space station to capture image and video recordings from the ISS. It’s been designed specifically with the following capabilities:

  • The camera can move autonomously in space and record still and moving images under remote control by the JAXA Tsukuba Space Center.
  • The recorded images and videos can be checked in real time by flight controllers and researchers on the ground, and then be fed back to the onboard crew.
  • The camera adopts existing drone technology and its exterior and inner structures were all manufactured by 3D-printing.

INT-BAL Objectives

One of the most important aspects of the INT-BAL is that it will free up time for the astronauts. Traditionally astronauts can spend hours/day using film and camera crew. Alleviating this duty will provide for roughly “10%” more working time aboard the station.

  • Acquiring the capability to move anywhere at any time via autonomous flight and record images from any angle.
  • Realizing “zero” photographing time by the onboard crew in the end, which amounts to about 10% of their working hours at present.
  • Enabling flight controllers and researchers on the ground to check the crew’s work from the same viewpoint as the crew. The effective cooperative work between in space and on the ground will contribute to maximized results of “Kibo” utilization experiments.
  • Striving to further improve Int-Ball’s performance, enhance its functions, and promote the automation and autonomy of extra- and intra-vehicular experiments, while seeking to acquire the robotics technology available for future exploration missions.

The INT-BAL is both cute, and functional. 

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Jamie is an amateur astronomer and every day space geek.