JOHANNESBURG - A ball-shaped artificial intelligence robot nicknamed the "flying brain" because it is trained to follow and interact with a German astronaut, blasted off Friday toward the International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX's Dragon cargo ship.
The unmanned Dragon capsule carried 5,900 pounds (2,700 kilograms) on its 15th supply mission to the orbiting lab, as part of a $1.6 billion contract with NASA.
Both the capsule and the rocket have flown before.
The Dragon sent cargo to space in 2016 and the Falcon blasted off a NASA satellite two months ago.
The California-based aerospace company headed by Elon Musk is intent on re-using rocket parts and spacecraft to save money and lower the cost of spaceflight.
About 10 minutes into the flight, SpaceX confirmed that the Dragon has successfully deployed from the rocket's second stage and was in a "good orbit."
It should arrive at the station on July 2.
A new batch of science is headed to @Space_Station following launch at 5:42am ET. With it, we’ll be exploring the use of artificial intelligence, monitoring Earth's temperature, growing chemical gardens & more.— NASA (@NASA) June 29, 2018
Read more: https://t.co/N53YhF0UPt pic.twitter.com/FhfEcuX8B2
In stark contrast, a rocket developed by a Japanese start-up company crashed and exploded seconds after its launch in Hokkaido this weekend.
The 10-metre long rocket was meant to go as high as 100-kilometres into space.
The rocket was made by Interstellar Technologies, a company that creates low-cost, mini rockets.
(Additional reporting by eNCA.)