How Japan’s adorable zero-gravity space drone navigates ISS

How Japan’s adorable zero-gravity space drone navigates ISS

There is no denying that Japans Aerospace Exploration Agencies (JAXA) JEM Internal Ball Camera is cute but the tiny space drone is packed full of some interesting engineering.

The JEM Internal Ball Camera (“Int-Ball” for short) was loaded on board the International Space Station on June 4 and today JAXA released its first video of the Int-Ball in action.

The idea behind the Int-Ball is to give a ground crew the ability to remotely capture images and video using the robot.

Its unique design is made possible by the zero-G environment – it can move around “anywhere at any time via autonomous flight and record images from any angle,” according to Japan’s space agency. JAXA hope the drone will help onboard ISS crew by reducing the time they spend taking photographs and capturing video themselves to zero. (According to JAXA that currently accounts for an amazing 10% of ISS crew time)

How does the Int-Ball Work

The drone contains actuators, rotational and acceleration sensors and electromagnetic brakes to help it orient in space.

JAXA is now exploring the new technology for other applications including satellites.

Next steps including improving the drones performance and seeking ways to help it better operate – with experiments both inside and outside space-borne vehicles.

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