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Japan's floating space drone offers a window into the ISS

18 Juillet 2017

The device, created by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), was delivered to the International Space Station on June 4, 2017, and now JAXA is releasing its first video and images. Excitingly, JAXA has just released the camera-bot's first images and videos from the ISS.

Acquiring the capability to move anywhere at any time via autonomous flight and record images from any angle. The 3D-printed drone offer real-time monitoring for "flight controllers and researchers on the ground", according to JAXA, and the media it gathers can also be fed back to ISS crew.

Int-Ball was delivered to the ISS by SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and a reusable Dragon cargo capsule back on June 4th, 2017, and Int-Ball now spends its time inside the Japanese "Kibo" science experiment module. Called the Int-Ball, the drone shoots photos of the crew and their activities, freeing up the astronauts to do other work. Currently, photographing processes take up roughly 10% of the onboard crew's working hours.

The device uses existing drone technology, but its interior and exterior parts were manufactured through 3D printing.

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Int-Ball's unique design is obviously made possible by the zero-G environment in which it operates. And while the whole idea might seem novel to those of us who don't understand the intricacies of a space station's operation, this footage can provide crucial feedback to both the controllers on the ground and even the astronauts in space.

The module was developed especially for space application, primarily satellites, and enables accurate control of the Int-Ball's movement.

The International Space Station isn't thought of as a volley ball court or other sport played with a ball, but there is now a ball rolling around the ISS only this one take images and movies.

Japan's floating space drone offers a window into the ISS