Meet FEDOR, the robot about to fly to the International Space Station

 Meet FEDOR, the robot about to fly to the International Space Station
Image: Roskosmos

14 August 2019

Russia is preparing to launch a robotic astronaut into space for a series of tests and challenges on the International Space Station (ISS).

Unlike other robots who have previously made the trip to the ISS, the robot — known as Skybot F-850, or FEDOR — will travel in the shuttle cockpit with the other astronauts, rather than in the cargo hold. It will be on hand throughout the trip to record and report on pre-launch operations, flight parameters, and the onset of zero gravity.

Once onboard the ISS, FEDOR will be carrying out experiments set by Roscosmos engineers to test the robot’s effectiveness in helping astronauts to carry out their work. If all tests are successful, the Russian space agency hopes to start testing the next generation of FEDOR robots outside the station itself, helping astronauts to repair spacecraft while minimising the need for dangerous space walks.

The current machine, which is powered by the same batteries used in ISS spacesuits, can work semi-autonomously, or in “avatar mode”, where it is controlled by an operator.

But Roscosmos believe that FEDOR is more than a remote control mechanic, even hinting that the robot could crack a few jokes on the journey into orbit. “Like any other person, Skybot F-850 is very sociable and has a sense of humour,’ Alexander Bloshenko, science adviser to Roscosmos’ director general, told Russian news outlet Sputnik. “It can support any topic of conversation and answer a variety of questions: including welcoming remarks, comments on its creators, and ending with its thoughts on the philosophy of space.”

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