It’s not surprising that China has sent robots into the skies, but the country recently made headlines by sending robots into outer space.
Traditionally, China’s space stations are staffed by a team of three, but soon there might be a fourth member to join the taikonauts, a humanoid robot which is fittingly called “Taikobot.”
The device is an outgrowth of collaborations between National University of Defense Technology and Zhejiang University.
It stands 171 cm tall and weighs 25 kg. With 54 degrees of freedom all over its body, the robotic astronaut can move about the cabin freely without being tethered by a cord.
This features allows it to assist Chinese taikonauts in performing day-to-day tasks within the space station, such as autonomous inspection, check and maintenance.
The idea of building a robot for China’s space program first came about in a research paper, in which scientists from the aforementioned universities laid out their designs.
Pictures leaked online show that the Taikobot has already undergone tests in a simulated environment within an on-the-ground space capsule.
Its joints are mostly built with lightweight 3D modeling technologies, and are strong enough to support the weight of boxes and other large objects.
The end effectors, two robotic hands, also possess enough nimbleness, as they are shown grabbing a hammer and holding an electric drill in the pictures.
Online media reports suggest that the functions of the taikobot make it an ideal substitute for the crew, when they are being rotated, leaving the cabin empty and unguarded.
China, of course, is not the first country or organization to test and apply robot astronauts. Aside from NASA, Japan’s outer space startup Gitai showcased its S1 robot in the international space station in October 2021.
In a demo video, S1 is able to push buttons, open black boxes, cut electric wires and even weld.