Meet the adorable robot camera Japan’s space agency sent to the ISS

Science can be cute as hell when it wants to be – take the JEM Internal Ball Camera (“Int-Ball” for short). The device, created by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), was delivered to the International Space Station on June 4, 2017, and now JAXA is releasing its first video and images.

The purpose of Int-Ball is to give scientists on the ground the ability to remotely capture images and video, via a robot that can move autonomously around in space and capture both moving and still imagery. The 3D-printed drone offer real-time monitoring for “flight controllers and researchers on the ground,” according to JAXA, and the media it gathers can also be fed back to ISS crew.

Int-Ball’s unique design is obviously made possible by the zero-G environment in which it operates. It’s aiming to be able to move around “anywhere at any time via autonomous flight and record images from any angle,” says Japan’s space agency, and will hope to help onboard ISS crew by reducing the time they spend taking photography and capturing video themselves to zero. That currently accounts for around 10 percent of ISS crew time, JAXA says.

Int-Ball contains actuators, rotational and acceleration sensors and electromagnetic brakes to help it orient in space, and JAXA is exploring the tech for other applications including satellites. The mission on the ISS, following its initial verification, which is underway now, includes improving its performance and seeking ways to help it better operate – with experiments both inside and outside space-borne vehicles.

No word on its friendship capabilities but I have to imagine they’re very high.