At a space industry conference last week, Russian officials announced that their version of Robonaut, the SAR-400, is currently undergoing testing at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre Research Institute, and will be making its way to the International Space Station (ISS) within just a few years.
In many ways, the SAR-400 is a lot like the NASA/GM Robonaut 2 that we’ve come to know and love. It’s not intended to be autonomous (yet), but is instead teleoperated from the ground. Users put on gloves that directly control the robot’s arms and hands, while also providing real-time force feedback. On Earth, it can lift up to 10 kilograms, and presumably in space, it can lift things that weigh a lot more. SAR-400 will be able to work outside the ISS, too.
Plans for its future were announced by Oleg Gordiyenko, science directorate deputy head at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre Research Institute, announced on Thursday at a space industry conference.
“It’s to perform operations both aboard the ISS and outside,” he said. “Scientists’ plans envision introducing robots in manned cosmonautics. This is a promising avenue of research for coming years.”
Controllers plan to loft the android to the ISS within two years to partner a U.S. robot already there. Future destinations are likely to be missions to the Moon and Mars.
It’s worth mentioning that we heard the “within two years” promise last year too, and it may just be that two years is the number that gets thrown around when nobody is quite sure what exactly is going to happen when. But, it’s nice to hear it reiterated, since it gives us a little extra confidence that they’re at least still working on this thing and that maybe it actually will end up in space. Also, we can’t help but get excited for what is certainly going to be twice the amount of robot-related shenanigans.