A Tiny Japanese Robot Rolls Onboard the Space Station

JEM Internal Ball Camera taking a video.

JEM Internal Ball Camera taking a video. JAXA/NASA

The astronauts aboard the International Space Station have a new roommate, but he doesn't take up much space.

The new addition is a camera drone, known as the Int-ball. Developed by Japan's space agency, JAXA, the Int-ball was manufactured entirely through 3-D printing and looks like something out of a science fiction movie. Its purpose however, is very real.

Moving either autonomously or via remote control from the ground, the Int-Ball can record video on the station and then transfer those images in real time to JAXA staff so they can address any issues. 

Ultimately, the goal for the Int-Ball is to help free up more time for the astronaut's aboard the ISS to conduct experiments. Currently, an estimated 10 percent of their time is spent taking video and photos of their work aboard the station. This little drone can do that instead.

The Int-ball launched on July 4, 2017, via a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and a reused Dragon cargo capsule, and is still undergoing initial verification.

Watch the Int-Ball in action in the videos below from JAXA