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17 July 2017, 11:16 | Justin Tyler
Japan's space camera drone on the ISS is a floating ball of cuteness
Gif shows the Int-Ball in action.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has released the first footage from its floating 3D printed space drone, the Int-Ball. The unit was delivered to the ISS aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on June 4th, and it's now going through initial testing.
The objective of Int-Ball is to give scientists on the ground the ability to remotely capture images and video, via a robot that can move autonomously around in space and capture both moving and still imagery.
The device, which measures almost six inches in diameter (15 cm), will allow mission controllers to closely monitor conditions inside the space station, freeing the crew to focus on more important tasks, such as conducting experiments and making repairs.
Int-Ball was delivered to the ISS by SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and a reusable Dragon cargo capsule back on June 4th, 2017, and Int-Ball now spends its time inside the Japanese "Kibo" science experiment module. It has also cut the amount of work done by Japanese astronauts on the ISS by about 10 percent, photographing work and equipment for evaluation that otherwise would have to be done manually.
The Int-Ball was manufactured entirely by 3D printing, and it uses existing drone technology. It's aiming to be able to move around "anywhere at any time via autonomous flight and record images from any angle", says Japan's space agency, and will hope to help onboard ISS crew by reducing the time they spend taking photography and capturing video themselves to zero. This allows it to move or orient itself in zero gravity. The module was developed especially for space application, primarily satellites, and enables accurate control of the Int-Ball's movement.
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