SpaceX sends AI robot ‘crew member’ to join astronauts on space station

Sunita Williams

NASA astronaut Sunita Williams wears a SpaceX spacesuit as she sits in a mockup for a Crew Dragon spaceship

Both vehicles for the mission are previously flown: The booster, a previous-generation Block 4 Falcon 9 known as B1045, launched NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, in April.

The Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 at 5:42 a.m. with a Dragon spacecraft filled with tons of science experiments, food and other supplies.

CIMON's personality includes an understanding of language, linguistics, and space lingo on the ISS, IBM executives said.

The shipment is packed into a recycled Dragon capsule that first flew in 2016.

It is expected to reach the space station on July 2, spend approximately one month there, and then return to Earth.

A ball-shaped artificial intelligence robot nicknamed the "flying brain" because it is trained to follow and interact with a German astronaut blasted off today toward the International Space Station aboard SpaceX's Dragon cargo ship.

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"Dragon confirmed in good orbit", SpaceX tweeted about eight minutes after the launch, following completion of the second-stage engine burn.

Roughly the size of a volleyball and weighing 5 kilograms, CIMON (Crew Interactive Mobile Companion) will float through the zero-gravity environment of the space station because of a system of fans. Commissioned by the German Aerospace Center, CIMON has been in development for two years and was made by Airbus and IBM.

The prime goal is to detect whether AI robots can cooperate with astronauts to help work life in space.

ECOSTRESS, short for ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station, will measure how much water plants need and how they respond to stress. Dragon separated from Falcon 9s second stage about nine minutes and thirty seconds after liftoff and is on its way to the International Space Station, now expected to arrive early on the morning of July 2nd.

On Friday, the spacecraft was carrying 5,900 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies to support hundreds of investigations now happening aboard the International Space Station's laboratory.

Another experiment aims to help scientists learn how cells that line blood vessels grow in space in order to inform a novel cancer treatment.

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