Japanese space agency 3D prints floating space drone

Alain Brian
Juillet 18, 2017

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has released images and video from its JEM Internal Ball Camera, known as "Int-Ball", - a camera drone that can record images and video while moving in space - and the new footage gives us earth-dwellers a sneak peek of the happenings on the space laboratory. The hope is that it will not only eventually handle all of the crew's photography tasks, but bridge the gap between them and ground researchers, allowing them to watch on in real time from the crew's perspective as they carry out experiments.

Another Int-Ball objective is enabling researchers and flight controllers on the ground to visually assess the crew's work in space from the same viewpoint, allowing for better cooperation between space and ground teams in what JAXA calls an "effective cooperative" effort. The goal of Int-Ball is to reduce the time the crew spends on photography - which now amounts for 10% of the crew's working time - to zero.

The device is 15cm in diameter and arrived at the ISS on June 4 aboard the Japanese experimental module (JEM) - Kibo. Currently, photographing processes take up roughly 10% of the onboard crew's working hours.

In the footage released by JAXA, viewers can see images of the interior of the ISS captured by the Int-Ball 3D printed bot. Dubbed "Int-Ball", the device will free astronauts to do more important work, while providing ground controllers with their own set of eyes.

Japan's space agency has an adorable ball-shaped camera that looks like something from Wall-E, and it is live on the International Space Station right now.

JAXA says it is "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".

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