The "crew" of the Horizons Mission, which embarks today for the International Space Station (ISS), has motors from FAULHABER on board. They serve as the drive for the CIMON astronaut assistant (Crew Interactive Mobile Companion), a scientific project with the first artificial intelligence (AI) for the ISS. The free-flying technology demonstrator is intended to support astronauts during routine work by, for example, displaying procedures or offering solutions to problems. Its screen displays a friendly face, its voice and the AI make it a "colleague" to the crew members, with whom it can engage in a true dialogue.
The mission companion is intended to, among other things, lighten the load during daily routine work and to function as an early warning system in the event of technical problems. The artificial assistant was developed on behalf of the Space Agency in the German Aerospace Center (DLR) by Airbus in Friedrichshafen.
The astronaut assistant of the CIMON project is approximately the same size as a medicine ball and weighs about five kilogrammes. In zero gravity, if floats freely in space and, on command, flies to the astronaut who needs its help. It moves by means of fourteen small propellers which transport it to the desired position and keep it there. They are driven by brushless DC-servomotors of the 0824 series from FAULHABER and controlled with Speed Controllers of the SC1801 series. The motors were selected on account of their reliability and longevity with very small dimensions, low weight and low energy consumption.
The Horizons Mission of the German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst is planned for June–December 2018. The artificial intelligence of the technology demonstrator was developed using, among other things, voice samples and photos of him. Gerst will perform three tests with the mission companion: the astronaut and his assistant will experiment with crystals, together solve the Rubik's cube and perform a complex medical experiment in which CIMON will announce the individual steps and serve as an "intelligent" flying camera. While Gerst will return to earth at the end of the mission, the artificial helper will remain on board and lend assistance during future missions.