In a remarkable development for the Chinese space programme, the South China Morning Post recently reported that Taikobot, a humanoid robot, will soon join the crew of the recently completed Tienkung space station. Standing 171 centimetres tall and weighing just 25 kilograms, Taikobot’s primary role will be to assist astronauts with small tasks and efficiently transport various equipment between the station’s different modules.
Taikobot: Taikotobic: Designed for microgravity
Taikobot is specifically designed to operate in the unique conditions of space, with its motion designed to mimic the movement of humans in microgravity environments. Although the robot has legs, it navigates within the station using a PFP (push-flight-park) strategy.
😮Meet Taikobot, the robot for Tiangong Space Station (CSS). It’s designed for station maintenance and astronaut assistance. It is 1.71m tall, weights 25kg, and has 54 degrees of freedom in total. Source: https://t.co/eH06Ec2VOi https://t.co/eH06Ec2VOi? pic.twitter.com/Wq6V6VlFfa— CNSA Watcher (@CNSAWatcher) March 30, 2023
The PFP strategy involves pushing off from one wall in a horizontal position, flying through the cabin and then docking with another wall using handholds. This innovative approach allows Taikobot to move around the space station in a similar way to human astronauts.
Limited payload capacity but promising potential
Although Taikobot’s payload capacity is currently limited, with arms capable of lifting only one to two kilograms, its performance in environmental tests on the space station has been very encouraging. The robot successfully performed tasks, interacted seamlessly with human crew members and handled objects of various sizes and weights. It efficiently followed the astronauts, monitoring their activities and ensuring smooth operation.
The engineers behind Taikobot envision a future in which the robot’s tasks go beyond asset handling, transportation and assistance. They believe that the humanoid assistant could eventually play a critical role in the continued exploration and development of space, contributing significantly to the burgeoning space economy.
The future of autonomy in space
Taikobot’s designers are optimistic that the robot can take full responsibility for the limited operation of the space station in the absence of astronauts. This advance could not only reduce the risks associated with human spaceflight, but also pave the way for greater autonomy in space exploration and research.