SpaceX sent cargo to the International Space Station - this launch is peculiar for 2 reasons

SpaceX sent cargo to the International Space Station - this launch is peculiar for 2 reasons

  • SpaceX launched this Friday, June 29, 2018 a Dragon capsule, loaded with 2.7 tons of research equipment to the International Space Station (ISS), using a Falcon 9 rocket.
  • This launch, which is the 15th resupply mission by SpaceX for NASA, took place as scheduled at 11:42 a.m. French time, from Cape Canaveral (Florida).
  • But this latest SpaceX launch is special for two reasons: it’s the last time the Block-4 version of the Falcon 9 was used, and it’s the first time SpaceX has sent a robot with artificial intelligence, which should become the very first to interact with humans in space.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket took off this Friday, June 29, 2018 from Cape Canaveral in Florida (USA) and sent a Dragon capsule loaded with 2.7 tons of research equipment to the International Space Station (ISS).

The cargo is currently on its way to the ISS and is expected to arrive on Monday morning, the Elon Musk-led space company said in a tweet:

As this is the 15th resupply mission by SpaceX for the ISS, one might think that this launch is nothing exceptional. In truth, it is special for two reasons:

  • this is the last time the Block-4 version of the Falcon 9 rocket is used,
  • and this is the first time SpaceX has sent a robot with intelligence (AI) to the ISS, which, if it arrives safely, should become the first AI to interact with humans in space.

As reported by the Ars Technica website, SpaceX had indicated that the next two launches scheduled for July should be carried out with the improved version of the Falcon 9 rocket, called “Block-5” and that there would therefore be no more missions carried out with the Block-4 version.

This new version of the Falcon 9 is supposed to have, among other things, a better thermal coating, greater thrust force, new caps compared to its older one. Objective: to increase its capacity to be reused and thus reduce the cost of launching rockets.

The first AI-powered robot in space

REUTERS/Joey Roulette

The intelligent robot, currently in transit to the ISS, is called CIMON for “Crew Interactive MObile Companion”, and will become the first AI to work in space, if all goes well.

Equipped with a microphone and an infrared camera, it is supposed to learn to recognize the voice and face of astronaut Alexander Gerst, currently on a mission aboard the ISS. The German astronaut will be able to ask him questions thanks to his flying camera, showing him photos or videos.

Made using 3D printing, CIMON has to work with Watson, the AI designed by IBM, to help the astronauts on board. It is also equipped with a deactivation button so that the astronauts’ comments are not recorded and transmitted to the IBM server on Earth.

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