The new agreement under the JAXA Space Innovation through Partnership and Co-creation (J-SPARC) initiative aims to demonstrate the potential for robots to automate of the processing of specific tasks aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Robotics is altering many aspects of our lives in many fields and one where it is particularly attractive is in the exploration and exploitation of space. Ironically, the great strides made in manned spaceflight since the first Vostok mission lifted off in 1961 have shown that not only is supporting astronauts in orbit challenging and expensive, there are also many tasks, like microgravity experiments, where the human touch isn't the best choice.
These tasks often require complex, precise, and subtle movements that demand either a highly specialized and expensive bespoke apparatus or a robot. The GITAI/JAXA agreement will work on ways that robots can handle maintenance, scientific experiments, and other specific tasks aboard the ISS.
Currently, GITAI is conducting autonomous control and automation in a ground mock-up of the Japanese Experiment Module "Kibo." In the fiscal year 2021, a robotic arm will be used in the BISHOP Airlock Module on the ISS to demonstrate its ability to carry out various tasks, including operating switches, plugging in and unplugging cables, and assembling panels.