Why Japanese company Gitai is launching robots instead of people
Getting things into space is expensive, with the cost of sending up a person orbiting the $100 million mark.
As manufacturing in orbit gets closer to reality, Japanese company Gitai is preparing robot technology to support the needs of manual labor at a fraction of the cost.
FreightWaves Editor at Large John Kingston spoke with Director of Business Development Yuske Taguchi about the goal of robotic automation replacing humans to perform menial tasks.
Taguchi says Gitai aims to put its robot into space as early as next summer through a partnership with NASA.
There are currently two types of robots Gitai is working with: fully autonomous and human-controlled.
The fully autonomous robots have more limitations due to the fact that they cannot adapt to changes in their environment or adjustments to the tasks they need to perform.
The human-controlled robots will involve someone using a remote control to tell the robot how to move and operate.
Taguchi says the goal for space manufacturing is to support astronauts in day-to-day tasks, but eventually to move to item production.
The industry is looking at opportunities for making fiber optic cables and medications in space. “You’re talking about applications that would be manufactured in space and then brought back to Earth for use down here,” says Kingston.
While product production is still in the far future, robotic tests will be happening soon.
Gitai will partner with company Nanoracks to debut its robots’ capabilities by placing a robot inside the Nanoracks Bishop airlock.
Taguchi says inside the airlock the robot will demonstrate dexterity and ability to assist with pushing buttons, turning knobs and manipulating cables.
He says expectations for robotic development “are very high especially in Japan because it is part of the culture to have robots be a part of their everyday lives.”
Gitai hopes to have recurring revenue generation by 2023 and wants to do that by partnering with any companies looking to do assembly or manufacturing in outer space.