August 13, 2005 NASA engineers are developing an unmanned "flying eyeball" that will be used as an assistant to astronauts for the space shuttle and International Space Station. Named "Mini AERCam", which stands for Miniature Autonomous Extravehicular Robotic Camera, the free-flying robotic inspection vehicle uses pressurized cold-gas (xenon) for propulsion and carries battery-powered cameras that will help astronauts perform inspections of the exterior of the space station or shuttle. The Mini AERCam technology demonstration unit has been integrated into the approximate form and function of a flight system, and represents a significant technology breakthrough in the field of free-flying robotic space vehicles. The nanosatellite-class spherical Mini AERCam free flyer is 7.5 inches in diameter and weighs approximately 10 pounds, yet it incorporates significant additional capabilities compared to the 35 pound, 14 inch AERCam Sprint free flyer that flew as a remotely piloted Shuttle flight experiment in 1997. That's the Aercam Sprint at right. Follow the links inside to the Mini Aercam.
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