Russia on 22 August 2019 launched an unmanned rocket carrying a life-size humanoid robot that will spend 10 days learning to assist astronauts on the International Space Station. Named Fedor, short for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research, the robot is the first ever sent up by Russia. Fedor blasted off in a Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz is set to dock with the space station and stay till September 7.
- Soyuz ships are normally manned on such trips, but no humans are travelling in order to test a new emergency rescue system.
- Instead of cosmonauts, Fedor, also known as Skybot F850, was strapped into a specially adapted pilot's seat, with a small Russian flag in hand.
- The silvery anthropomorphic robot stands 1.80 metres (5 foot 11 inches) tall and weighs 160 kilogrammes (353 pounds).
- Fedor copies human movements, a key skill that allows it to remotely help astronauts or even people on Earth to carry out tasks while the humans are strapped into an exoskeleton.
- On the website of one of the state backers of the project, the Foundation of Advanced Research Projects, Fedor is described as potentially useful on Earth for working in high radiation environments, demining and tricky rescue missions.
- Though initially developed for the emergencies ministry, Fedor can also be seen shooting at targets from two handguns in a video posted by Russian space agency chief Dmitry Rogozin.
- On board, the robot will perform tasks supervised by Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, who joined the ISS in July and will wear an exoskeleton and augmented reality glasses in a series of experiments later this month.
- Since Fedor is not trained to grab space station handles to move about in microgravity conditions, its legs will be immobilised on the space station.
- In 2011, NASA sent up Robonaut 2, a humanoid robot developed with General Motors that had a similar aim of working in high-risk environments.
- In 2013, Japan sent up a small robot called Kirobo along with the ISS's first Japanese space commander. Developed with Toyota, it was able to hold conversations — albeit only in Japanese.
- The International Space Station (ISS) is a space station (habitable artificial satellite) in low Earth orbit.
- The ISS programme is a joint project between five participating space agencies: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).
- The ownership and use of the space station is established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements.
- The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields.
- The station is divided into two sections, the Russian Orbital Segment (ROS), which is operated by Russia, and the United States Orbital Segment (USOS), which is shared by many nations.
- The first ISS component was launched in 1998, with the first long-term residents arriving on 2 November 2000.