Gitai's autonomous robot installs panels outside the ISS, showing orbital repair in action


Los Angeles-based Gitai said Tuesday that its autonomous robotic arm has performed a technology demonstration outside the International Space Station.

Gitai CEO Sho Nakanose tells TechCrunch In an interview last year The company aims to reduce labor costs in space by 100 times, in the same way that SpaceX and other providers have dramatically reduced launch costs. Autonomous robotic systems still have some way to go before they render human labor obsolete, especially here on Earth; But in space, human labor is expensive (and dangerous), which provides an opportunity for robotic alternatives.

The 1.5-meter autonomous robotic arm, which the startup calls S2, was launched to the ISS aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 in January. It was mounted externally on Nanorack's Bishop Airlock before completing a series of tasks required to build structures to live and work in space. These included installing a task panel, screwing and unscrewing small bolts, manipulating flexible materials, and attaching and detaching a flexible electrical cable to a connector.

Gitai Technology Demonstration ISS

Image Credit: Gitai

In the near term, the company is targeting on-orbit satellite servicing for spacecraft in low Earth orbit and geostationary orbit. Gitai is also developing robotic satellites capable of performing tasks related to this market, such as rendezvous, docking, inspection and de-orbiting, he said in a statement.

The eight-year-old startup plans to start offering on-orbit servicing in 2026. Arm's technology readiness level (TLR), a standard used by NASA to chart the maturity of technology, is now at 7, the highest level, Gitai said. The startup's other product, an “inchworm-type” branch, is also on TRL 7.