MIAMI – SpaceX is poised to launch an unmanned cargo ship toward the International Space Station Monday, including a supercomputer that could direct astronauts on future deep-space missions. The liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the Dragon cargo ship, is planned for 12:31 p.m. (1631 GMT) from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Dragon is packed with 6,400 pounds (2,900 kg) of supplies, including a sophisticated supercomputer made by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), called The Spaceborne Computer. Another experiment on board is designed to help scientists study Parkinson's disease in greater detail in the hopes of finding better treatments for this degenerative disease.
Astronauts on board the International Space Station have a new robotic companion to play around with. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has released the first images shot by the "Int-Ball," a spherical camera that floats around alongside the rest of the crew. JAXA says crew members spend 10 percent of their working hours with a camera in hand, photographing work or equipment that requires further evaluation. A floating camera drone could, in theory, alleviate the crew of that responsibility, giving them more time to conduct experiments and carry out repairs.
Strangely, however, this iconic control pad was left out of the Nintendo Switch's default controller design, and Sean Buckley missed it so much, he did what any reasonable tech blogger would do: 3D-printed his own. Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer will help shed light on other mysterious pulsars. The Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) will be installed outside the ISS, where it will look for and study the extremely dense objects. Neutron stars begin their lives as stars around seven to 20 times the mass of our sun.
A multiplexer-demultiplexer (MDM) data relay box aboard the International Space Station failed Saturday, and will be replaced Tuesday during a spacewalk by NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer, the space agency announced Sunday. Whitson prepared a spare data relay box Sunday morning, and tested its components. In the two hours or so that the spacewalk will last, Whitson -- designated as extravehicular crewmember 1 and wearing a suit with red stripes -- will replace the data relay box while Fischer -- designated as extravehicular crewmember 2 and wearing a suit with no stripes -- will perform the additional task of installing a pair of wireless communication antennas on the Destiny Lab. The installation of the antennas was originally scheduled for May 12, when Whitson and Fischer conducted the space station's 200th spacewalk.
Surrounded by three walls papered with pictures of the International Space Station's interior, the perfectly polished, perfectly level granite slab at NASA's Ames Research Center supports not a puck, but a robot riding on a cushion of CO2. It's an impressive feat of engineering, and a fascinating glimpse at NASA's robotic future in space. To that end, Astrobee uses blasts of air to steer itself. For the near future, though, Astrobee will be NASA's eye way, way up in the sky.
Called SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites), these robots have spent about 600 hours participating in an enormous variety of experiments, including autonomous formation flying, navigation and mapping, and running programs written by middle school students in team competitions. But beyond serving as a scientific platform, SPHERES weren't designed to do anything especially practical in terms of assisting the astronauts or flight controllers, and it's time for a new generation of robotic free fliers that's fancier, more versatile, and will be a big help for the humans on the ISS. From the beginning, Astrobee was intended to be much more than a successor to SPHERES: It's a completely new platform, designed from scratch to operate autonomously and safely on board the ISS. Astrobee's computing system has three layers of processors inside: one low level, one mid level, and one high level.
Takuya Onishi used a robotic arm to safely perform the delicate mission of capturing the Cygnus cargo ship upon its arrival at the International Space Station. Astronaut Onishi, 40, maneuvered the arm and attached the Cygnus to the Earth-facing port of the ISS Node-One module at around 8:30 p.m. Sunday Japan time. His fellow Japanese astronaut, Kimiya Yui, 46, performed a similar maneuver during his stint aboard the ISS in August 2015 when he captured Japan's Kounotori resupply craft. The docking of the Cygnus and Kounotori ships were both assisted by the control room at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Tsukuba Space Center in Ibaraki Prefecture.