Maintenance of the International Space Station (ISS) can become hectic for astronauts. So, NASA has devised a way to help astronauts with their chores. Astrobee, a free-flying robotic system assistant, is NASA’s new addition onboard the ISS. The purpose of this robot is to undertake routine tasks so that astronauts have ample time to spare for humane tasks such as scheduling and planning. A recent social media post by ISS shows the AstroBee. In the photo, NASA astronaut Megan McArthur poses with the robot inside the ISS’ Kibo laboratory module.
The AstroBee is a cube-shaped machine and it is almost the size of a toaster with a width of 12.5 inches. The caption reads, “The cube-shaped, toaster-size AstroBee is being tested for its ability to help astronauts with ordinary maintenance tasks and monitoring capabilities on the orbiting lab.”
We find more about this device on NASA’s website. According to it, AstroBee can work autonomously or via remote control handled by astronauts, flight controllers, or on-ground researchers. There are currently three such robots on the ISS.
Some of the major duties of these robots include tasks like taking inventory and documenting experiments done by astronauts. The robots can do these tasks through their built-in cameras. Astrobee can also be used to move cargo throughout the station, whenever necessary.
They can also function as a research platform. Astronauts can outfit the robots and programme them to carry out experiments in a microgravitational environment.
The robots use electric fans that help them freely fly through the microgravity of the station. The robots also have a “perching arm” with which they can grab station handrails. That way, they can turn off the propulsion fan and conserve energy.
The robots are modular and can be upgraded, giving scientists the scope for improvement.