Named the Int-Ball, the robot can float around the station and will snap pictures of its astronaut crew, helping researchers monitor conditions. It was developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) who have designed it in monochrome with large blue eyes – making it probably the cutest thing in space. The drone’s technical features – including its controls for operating in a zero gravity environment – were all based on existing drone technology. And the team manufactured both its internal and external parts using 3D printing.
It arrived on the ISS last month on a Falcon 9 rocket launched by SpaceX – which was the first time SpaceX had reused a Dragon cargo capsule. Int-Ball can both travel around the station autonomously or be controlled by a team based on Earth. The still and moving images it records can be checked in real time by flight controllers and researchers on the ground, according to JAXA. This will save a lot of time for astronauts aboard the ISS, who can otherwise spend about 10% of their working hours taking photographs.