Page 21 - 2019 Mil/Aero eBook
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CIMON Says: Design Lessons from a Robot Assistant in Space
Designing a service bot is challenging enough, but designing one to function in microgravity and to be appealing to its fellow astronauts adds to the unique design challenges. Read on to see how engineers at Airbus developed the European Space Agency’s first free-flying, autonomous robot assistant for the International Space Station.
Traci Browne and Paul Golata for Mouser Electronics
Of the more than 225 visitors to the International Space Station (ISS) in the past 20 years, June 2018 marked the first time that one of those visitors was a free-flying, autonomous service robot. CIMON — or as it is more formally known, the Crew Interactive MObile CompanioN — is an artificial intelligence (AI) enabled robotic assistant that can speak, hear, see, and understand.
The International Space Station (ISS)
CIMON’s physical form is a plastic, 320mm-diameter, 5kg spherical head with no body. In fact, CIMON’s design was reportedly inspired by the Professor Simon Wright’s character (a flying brain) in the 1978 cartoon series, “Captain Future.” Much like the fictional professor-aided Captain Future, CIMON was responsible for assisting astronaut Alexander Gerst in the Columbus laboratory module of the ISS.
CIMON was developed and built by Airbus on behalf of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. [DLR]) and was assigned to assist Gerst with three different tasks, making it both a service robot and a collaborative robot. The three tasks involved solving a Rubik’s cube puzzle, conducting experiments with crystals, and carrying out a medical experiment that CIMON would film. In addition, CIMON could also serve as a complex database of all necessary information about operation and repair procedures for

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