Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, is ready to bring back home its humanoid robot called Skybot F850 after its short stay onboard the International Space Station.
A live translation from Roscosmos showed that Skybot F850 will be tucked inside a Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft as it was preparing to leave the ISS. Roscosmos said the ship would land in Kazakhstan overnight.
Skybot, originally known as FEDOR (short for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research) was part of the space agency’s mission o test the MS-14 space capsule with its newly constructed Soyuz 2.1a rocket boosters.
Soyuz is normally the preferred spacecraft by the Russian space agency to deploy humans to the ISS. However, with the new rocket booster in place, this launch is a critical test to determine the compatibility of the new combination and will help Roscosmos to determine if it will be ready for its crewed flight tentatively scheduled in March 2020.
Thus, this mission was an uncrewed flight to the ISS except for its single humanoid passenger, Skybot. Originally called Fedor, Skybot F850 was Russia’s first humanoid robot to be sent into space. Notably, similar technology has been sent by Japan and NASA.
During its short 2-week stay on the ISS, the nearly 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall and weighing about 350 pounds (160 kilograms), Skybot F-850 was put through a series of tests by the Russian cosmonaut crew.
Initially, Skybot was meant to only gather data and report conditions such as the forces it encountered during flight, including the point at which it begins to feel microgravity, as supplementary data for future adjustments to the spacecraft in preparation for human space flight.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX made the same robot-gauging experiment on its first uncrewed test flight of Crew Dragon in March. Like, Fyodor, the flight included an anthropomorphic test dummy (ATD) onboard. The dummy is attached with sensors to measure the gravitational loads that will be placed on the crew as well as the environment around them.
However, the Skybot robot was developed to become multi-functional. Videos from ground testing have shown that the Fedor robot shooting guns, lifting weights and driving a car.
Instead of its meager tasks, Russian cosmonauts made Skybot perform several tasks to see if it could do the same set of tasks it can do in space and microgravity.
Those activities included working with tools and connecting hardware. In some of the tests, Skybot appeared to have relatively successful in the microgravity environment.
Furthermore, another capability of the robot was that it can replicate the movements of a human operator, and Skybot F-850 successfully connected cables and worked with tools used by cosmonauts on spacewalks outside the station, according to Roscosmos.
A Twitter account was even set up for the space robot to share updates from Skybot F-850’s perspective throughout the mission, including videos and images of it looking out the space station’s window and conducting demonstrations with cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Alexey Ovchinin.
In a translated tweet above, Skybot tweeted that Astronauts greeted him onboard the ISS and all is well except for some adjustments to his left hand, but said that all is well afterward. Overall, Skybot mentioned that his gears were in good shape upon arrival.
Here’s a video uploaded by Skybot, showing how he attached some wires inside the Russian dock on the ISS.
The video above showed how Skybot attempts to use a power drill, which gets uncomfortably close to Ovchinin’s head. At the end of the video, Skybot seemingly dabs its forehead with a towel.
In the future, Roscosmos hopes the robots such as Skybot will eventually carry out dangerous operations such as spacewalks, where human astronauts can avoid or completely not do the task themselves.
Notably, the launch itself was a success, but once in space, the Soyuz capsule carrying Skybot had a hard time attaching to the ISS.
Roscosmos 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.
The MS-14 capsule was then successfully parked at a fully functioning port on the Russian Zvezda module on the ISS.
The Soyuz spacecraft carrying Skybot departed the ISS around 2:15 p.m. EST, and will spend the next few hours making its way back down to its landing site in Kazakhstan. Russia plans to recover the capsule to analyze it, as well as retrieve the country’s now space-hardened robot.