SpaceX rocket carrying AI research blasts off for space station


The SpaceX Dragon spaceship lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 5:42 a.m. Friday, June 29.

NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel grab Dragon when it arrives using the space station's Canadarm2 robotic arm, NASA said.

The launch marks SpaceX's fastest repeat flight of a booster rocket: The same Falcon 9 launched the planet-hunting TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) satellite in April.

Also on board are 20 brown female mice, half of them genetically identical from one strain or family, and the other half identical from another family. The robot can even assess the moods of its human crewmates and interact with them accordingly.

A floating, ball-shaped, artificial intelligence robot, specially trained to follow around a German astronaut at the International Space Station, is scheduled to blast off Friday on its ground-breaking mission.

The robot, called "Crew Interactive Mobile Companion (CIMON)", will explore the use of AI as a way to mitigate crew stress and workload during long-term space flights. Developed for Germany's DLR Space Administration by Airbus in collaboration with IBM, CIMON weighs around 11 pounds and is about the size of a medicine ball.

Once about the ISS, CIMON will essentially assist astronauts in a bunch of experiments, and will also be used as a "flying camera".

There are also 60 packets of Death Wish Coffee from NY state on board.

The robot is created to guide Gerst through various science procedures, and show videos or pictures as needed.

Faclon 9 also bears an earth science instrument called ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) to measure and check how plants respond to the water availability in the outer space. However, SpaceX won't be landing the booster again after the cargo resupply launch as the company is trying to phase out its older Block 4 hardware for the new Block 5 boosters which can fly up to 10 times without major refurbishment.

All being well, the new rocket could be used to carry astronauts to the International Space Station in future missions.

SpaceX says the rocket has numerous upgrades from its predecessor, the Block 4.