SpaceX Conducts 15th ISS Resupply Operation Under NASA Contract

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Commissioned by the German Aerospace Center, CIMON has been in development for two years and was made by Airbus and IBM.

An artificial intelligence robot dubbed Crew Interactive Mobile Companion (or CIMON for short) is now en route to the ISS onboard a NASA-contracted SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

In the early hours on Friday, SpaceX's Block 4 Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, carrying 5,900 pounds of supplies, including a droid named CIMON and coffee from Death Wish Coffee Company, to the International Space Station.

Nevertheless, whether you think of CIMON as an advanced smart speaker, Hal, or a Westworld host, the innovative assistant could herald the future of manned (and robot-assisted) spaceflight for astronauts and their space-based experiments.

"CIMON is created to support astronauts in performing routine work, for example by displaying procedures or - thanks to its "neural" AI network and its ability to learn - offering solutions to problems", Airbus explained in a news release.

CIMON will be powered by more than a dozen propellers to help it zip around and avoid bumping into things inside the Columbus module of the space lab.

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Once about the ISS, CIMON will essentially assist astronauts in a bunch of experiments, and will also be used as a "flying camera". Cimon's human handlers promise the robot will behave. Already savvy about Gerst's science research, the self-propelling Cimon will float at the astronaut's side and help, when asked, with research procedures.

All six crew members at the orbiting outpost can speak to CIMON, though it has been taught to work best with Gerst. The study seeks to support development of countermeasures to protect astronaut health during missions, as well as to improve the treatment of immune, metabolic and sleep disorders on Earth.

The same first-stage booster launched the planet-hunting Tess satellite in April, while the capsule flew in 2016.

The coverage of the NASA launch will start on NASA TV at 5:15 ET, while coverage of SpaceX will start from Liftoff about 20 minutes ago.

In the event of a delay, Sunday will host a backup launch attempt, but the forecast is expected to drop to 70 percent "go", Air Force forecasters said.

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