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Spacecraft carrying Russian humanoid robot docks at ISS

  • News Desk

    Agence France-Presse

Moscow, Russia   /   Tue, August 27, 2019   /   11:11 am
Spacecraft carrying Russian humanoid robot docks at ISS This handout picture taken on July 26, 2019 and released by the official website of the Russian State Space Corporation ROSCOSMOS on August 21, 2019 shows Russian humanoid robot Skybot F-850 (Fedor) being tested ahead of its flight on board Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Russia space agency Roscosmos is about to send a humanoid robot to the International Space Station. Skybot F-850 will be sent to the ISS on August 22 on board the Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft, and will spend over two weeks there before returning to Earth on September 7. It's the first time that a robot will take the commander's place in a Soyuz — the Skybot will monitor and report on conditions during the otherwise uncrewed flight. (AFP/Roscosmos space agency)

An unmanned spacecraft carrying Russia's first humanoid robot to be sent into orbit successfully docked at the International Space Station on Tuesday, following a failed attempt over the weekend.

"Contact confirmed, capture confirmed," a commentator on NASA TV said.

The lifesize robot named Fedor -- short for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research -- copies human movements, a key skill that allows it to help carry out tasks remotely.

It blasted off Thursday in a Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft from a Russian spaceport in southern Kazakhstan and is due to stay on the ISS until September 7, learning to assist astronauts in the space station.

An aborted docking on Saturday had increased uncertainty over the future of Russia's space programme, which has suffered a number of recent setbacks.

NASA said Saturday the craft had been "unable to lock onto its target at the station," and had "backed a safe distance away from the orbital complex while the Russian flight controllers assess the next steps".

Russian flight controllers had told the ISS crew it appeared the problem that prevented automated docking was in the station and not the spacecraft, NASA added.

Soyuz ships are normally manned on such trips, but this time no humans were travelling in order to test a new emergency rescue system.

Fedor is not the first robot to go into space. In 2011, NASA sent up Robonaut 2, a humanoid developed with General Motors that had a similar aim of working in high-risk environments.

It was flown back to Earth in 2018 after experiencing technical problems.

In 2013, Japan sent up a small robot called Kirobo along with the ISS's first Japanese space commander. Developed with Toyota, it was able to hold conversations -- albeit only in Japanese.

The International Space Station has been orbiting Earth at about 28,000 kilometres per hour (17,000 miles per hour) since 1998.

Last October, a Soyuz rocket carrying an American and a Russian had to make an emergency landing shortly after lift-off -- the first failure in the history of manned Russian flights.