SpaceX sends cargo toward space station in year's 12th launch

Ismael LynchJul 02, 2018

A preliminary robot with a cartoon face known as CIMON (crew interactive mobile companion), has been sent to the International Space Station (ISS), on board a spaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft loaded with about 2,600 kgs of research and supplies, including experiments investigating cellular biology, Earth science and Artificial Intelligence (AI), lifted off on a Falcon 9 rocket on Friday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. According to NASA, it's SpaceX's 15th mission for commercial resupply services.

The same first-stage booster launched the planet-hunting Tess satellite in April, while the capsule flew in 2016.

The spacecraft is taking around 2,600 kilograms of supplies to the global space station; these include an AI robot named Cimon, cellular biology equipment for cancer therapy, a chemical garden, and other earth science objects.

About 10 minutes later, SpaceX's Twitter account confirmed Dragon was "in good orbit". Alexander Gerst, a German astronaut now aboard the ISS, helped design CIMON's screen prompts and vocal controls.

The statement said that CIMON is "tuned to relate to the astronaut, so if the astronaut says I miss my family - which we have [Biniok] saying, CIMON responds with a more compassionate tone and a suggestion on how to help". Dragon will return to Earth with more than 4,000 pounds of cargo after a one-month stay at the ISS.

It has been described as a "flying brain" by Manfred Jaumann, head of microgravity payloads at Airbus.

So while CIMON was made to help Gerst carry out research, it's also the beginning of the study of human-machine conversational AI interaction in space.

ECOSTRESS will use a space-based measurement of plant change and response to water access to provide potential approaches to agricultural water management. In a news release, NASA said that gear "will support dozens of investigations aboard the space station".

NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel grab Dragon when it arrives using the space station's Canadarm2 robotic arm, NASA said. The capsule is scheduled to reach the station on July 2.

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