Russia launches humanoid robot to the ISS

Why would you keep sending flesh-and-blood astronauts to the ISS? Roskosmos wondered that too and decided it was a good idea to put a humanoid robot in a rocket. The organization did this to test a new capsule and booster.

In the night from Wednesday to Thursday, the Russian space agency launched an “unmanned” Soyuz-2.1a launcher with the Soyuz MS-14 capsule on top from the Cosmodrome in Baikonur in Kazakhstan. The rocket will not only bring scientific equipment, medication and food to the International Space Station, but also Skybot F-850. This robot nicknamed Fedor that looks like a Cylon robot has its heeft own Twitter account and already shone in 2017 in a video in which he, armed with two pistols, imagined himself Robocop for a moment.

However, he doesn’t go up to arrest or hunt western astronauts on the International Space Station; Fedor is used to collect data during the flight phase of the upgraded Soyuz capsule on the Soyuz 2.1a launch vehicle. The first manned flight to the ISS is to take place from March next year. The current two cosmonauts aboard the ISS, Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov, will welcome their “compatriot” to the space station on Saturday, after the automatic docking procedure, and test how he functions in weightlessness. On September 6, Fedor flies back to Earth.

The Soyuz 2.1a booster is equipped with a new digital flight control system and upgraded rocket motors. It will replace the Soyuz FG booster, which has been used for decades to launch people to the ISS. The capsule has, among other things, a renewed navigation system and an adapted descent control system.

Skybot F-850 is not the first ‘human-like’ robot to pay a visit to the ISS; between 2011 and 2014, NASA had legless Robonaut2 in the ISS and this robot is expected to return next year. Europe has previously sent the facial recognition robot Crew Interactive Mobile Companion to the ISS. Japan was also involved when the Kirobo robot on the ISS talked to Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata in 2013.