A robot workforce could reduce space operation costs 'by 100 times'

Japanese startup Gitai just closed a $30 million funding round that will help it develop a space robot workforce.
Chris Young
Gitai's robotic rover during tests.
Gitai's robotic rover during tests.


The robots might even be coming for astronaut jobs.

Japanese robotics startup Gitai has just raised a new funding round to bolster its mission of developing a space robot workforce.

The Tokyo-based firm raised ¥4 billion ($30 million) to accelerate the development of its remote space robot fleet, which is envisioned to greatly reduce the cost of space operations as well as the risk to human life, a Bloomberg report reveals.

A space robot workforce could dramatically reduce operational costs

SpaceX has dramatically altered the space industry in recent years by greatly reducing the cost of transportation to orbit with its partially reusable workhorse Falcon 9 rocket.

In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Gitai CEO Sho Nakanose explained how the company envisions the next frontier as a great reduction to the cost and risk of working and operating in space via robotic workforces.

Using Gitai's robot arms and rovers, operational costs for space missions could be reduced "by 100 times," Nakanose explained, adding that these robots could be used on the Moon and Mars.

"The bottleneck of the space industry has been changing rapidly," he continued. "Huge space companies such as SpaceX and BlueOrigin are solving the space transportation problem, and now the bottleneck has changed from transportation costs to operational costs."

Gitai's inchworm robot, robotic arms, and lunar robotic rovers are specially designed for space operations. The inchworm robot features grapple end-effectors at both ends, allowing it to "perform a variety of general-purpose tasks, such as docking spacecraft, manipulating payload, and inspect & repair, with high precision," the company explains on its website.

Gitai to expand US operations, build space robot workforce

Gitai's new funding round will go towards expanding its US operations — it will recruit engineers and continue to develop its space robots. The company's robots are able to assemble solar panels, weld components together, and also carry out inspections and conduct maintenance when required.

"The Japanese space market is limited," Nakanose told Bloomberg. "We decided to expand our business in the US."

The US space agency is looking to the private sector to help it take human space exploration to the next level, and Gitai is one of several global startups setting up operations in the US, drawn by lucrative NASA contracts.

NASA is preparing to send the first astronauts back to the Moon with its Artemis II and Artemis III missions. The Artemis program is designed to help establish a permanent presence on the Moon, which will serve as a stepping stone for eventual human exploration of Mars.

NASA and Gitai are collaborating to test the latter's space robots in orbit. "We have successfully conducted our first tech demo inside the International Space Station in 2021," Nakanose said "And we are conducting the next tech demo — this time outside the ISS — within this year."

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