After a failed initial attempt, Russian Soyuz capsule has finally docked on the International Space Station, carrying along with its sole passenger, a humanoid robot.
A previous docking attempt on Saturday had failed due to a faulty component within one of the ISS’s automatic docking ports.
Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, indicated the problem was a result of its automated rendezvous system, called Kurs, which is used for navigation by visiting Russian vehicles on the ISS, and not the spacecraft itself.
As an effort to try docking the space capsule again, Russian cosmonauts on the ISS had to manually move one of its pre-docked capsules on the ISS over the port where MS-14—Soyuz capsule which failed to dock—was supposed to be.
Now, MS-14 capsule is parked at a fully functioning port on the Russian Zvezda module on the ISS.
“Watching in admiration of the agility and cooperation of international space programs to work through the dynamics of human space flight,” tweeted Nasa’s Christina Koch, who is on board the ISS.
More importantly, now, Soyuz M-14 has successfully delivered a humanoid robot named Fedor.
The robot Fedor (Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research) has been developed by Android Technology Company and the Advanced Research Fund on a technical assignment from Russia’s Emergencies Ministry.
The android robot has received its name of Skybot F-850, where the letter F stands for its affiliation with the Fedor family of robots.
During the launch and the two-day travel to ISS, Fedor sat on the captain’s seat of the capsule, which is designed to carry human passengers.
However, the robot didn’t actually pilot the craft – it was on an automated trip with no humans aboard to take over manual control, which is also another reason why Soyuz failed to dock in the first place.
Notably, the MS-14 space capsule was tethered to a brand new Soyuz 2-1a rocket booster that is intended to update Russia’s old line of rocket boosters.
This mission was designed to test the compatibility of the capsule, which usually carries human passengers on board and the new booster in preparation of using the same model with crew on board starting next year.
The Skybot F-850, on the other hand, temporarily played the role of the passenger, where it gauged the experience using several built-in sensors onboard, and measured things like G-forces exerted on passengers, vibrations, temperature readings and more.
Fedor sent out a tweet upon arriving saying: “Sorry about the delay. Got stuck in traffic. Ready to work now.”
This is the first use of a robot in this capacity by Roscosmos, and Skybot will remain at the ISS for around two weeks before it heads back to Earth. According to the space agency, Fedor should make his way back home to Earth on its original September 7th departure.
Nevertheless, down on Earth, the robot has proven to be capable of doing a multiple of tasks that made it a reliable passenger on this unique mission.
In a video shared by Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin before the launch, it showed Fedor driving a car, before lifting weights and doing press-ups.
It is also capable of handling and firing weapons, with one part of the video showing Fedor shooting two handguns with impressive accuracy.
In addition to sensing conditions during launch, the one-meter, 80-centimeter tall and 160-kilogram Skybot also has some functions similar to your average Alexa speaker where it can answer questions, have short conversations and tell a few jokes.
During its time aboard the ISS, the robot will practice using tools in zero gravity to fix issues that might arise on the space station.
In the future, Roscosmos hopes that the Skybot or anything following it will eventually replace humans from performing risky spacewalks.
“The robot’s main purpose is to be used in operations that are especially dangerous for humans onboard spacecraft and in outer space,” said Russian space agency Roscosmos.
Notably, Fedor is not the first robot to be sent out to space.
In 2011, Nasa sent a humanoid robot called Robonaut 2 to carry out tasks that were too dangerous for human astronauts.
Japan also sent a miniature humanoid robot in 2013 called Kirobo, which spent 18 months aboard the space station before returning to Earth.