Astrobee is the cute NASA little robot that will be doing mundane chores and helping astronauts on board the International Space Station by the end of this year.
Designed by the NASA Ames Intelligent Robotics Group, Astrobee will replace an aging SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellite) robot to do all kinds of things like monitor environmental conditions like the air and sound quality on the ISS, take inventory of the hundreds of tools and materials lying around, and directly connect astronauts to Houston. At one cubic foot in volume, it’s perfect for fitting into tight spaces and staying out of astronauts’ way; basically, the ultimate assistant.
Astrobee is capable of full autonomy. The little guy can dock on its own, perch and grip rails, and fly around with propulsion modules. Scientists on Earth can also remotely navigate it around the ISS by using the cameras and microphone as if they were actually there. Not having to worry about basic maintenance of the ISS allows astronauts to get more done.
According to NASA, Astrobee will be used to test the possibility for a swarm of satellites that can fly in unison to build a giant space telescope one day. This would save astronauts the hassle of building it themselves on land or in space and worrying about launching it.
The possibilities for Astrobee are endless. Three of the little fellas will be launched to the ISS from the Kennedy Space Center sometime between July 2017 and June 2018, although they expect to use just two at a time.