Unmanned Systems Technology 028 | ecoSUB Robotics AUVs I ECUs focus I Space vehicles insight I AMZ Driverless gotthard I InterDrone 2019 report I ATI WAM 167-BB I Video systems focus I Aerdron HL4 Herculift

46 W hile programmes aimed at studying the outer Solar System are ongoing, recent months have seen organisations around the world surging forward with plans for consolidating their places in the near-Earth regions. In particular, the Earth’s orbit, the Moon and Mars will host a range of new orbital and ground systems within the next couple of years. Many fully autonomous and partially automated vehicles are under development, as scientists and engineers seek to lay the groundwork for the anticipated off-world industrial and colonial work expected to play a part in humanity’s near future. Orbital logistics As research and tourism in Earth’s orbit increase in scale and ambition, so the need to conduct orbital resupply operations reliably and consistently is greater than ever. More and more organisations are using autonomous spacecraft that are capable of precise navigation and calculations for docking with provisions, removing the risk to human astronauts during lift-off or return. In one of the latest prove-outs of such capabilities, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has sent an unmanned spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS), to supply onboard astronauts with about 5.3 t of provisions. The supplies, carried by the Kounotori 8 robotic cargo spacecraft, included fresh food and water, equipment for carrying out experiments, and six lithium-ion orbital replacement unit (ORU) batteries to replace the ISS’s nickel-hydrogen battery packs. The mission was launched on September 24 from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Tanegashima Space Center off the south-eastern coast of Japan. The name ‘Kounotori 8’ was designated for the 8th iteration of JAXA’s H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV), designed and built to supply the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module as well as the rest of the ISS. After it has delivered its supplies, it is intended that astronauts will offload their waste and refuse onto the HTV, before it returns to the Earth to be destroyed upon re-entry. The race is on for developers of unmanned space systems to stake their claims in Earth’s neighbourhood, reports Rory Jackson Planet gear October/November 2019 | Unmanned Systems Technology The Kounotori 8 mission was the latest to use the Japanese space agency’s autonomous cargo spacecraft, the H-II Transfer Vehicle. It carried a 5.3 t payload to the ISS (Courtesy of NASA)