When space shuttle Discovery blasts into space next week, there will be an unusual passenger onboard.

A 300-pound humanoid robot named Robonaut 2, or R2, will hitch a ride along with the six astronauts who are making their way to the International Space Station.

With its gold helmet and shiny metallic visor, R2 looks a little like a toned-down Metroid from the popular Nintendo video game, but it’s solely made up of a torso, two arms and two five-fingered hands.

The idea is that R2 will be an astronaut’s assistant, helping out with routine tasks such as holding tools and vacuuming air filters.

“Initially, R2 will be deployed on a fixed pedestal inside” the space station, NASA said. “Next steps include a leg for climbing through the corridors of the space station.”

Once fully built, NASA envisions R2 assisting astronauts during space walks, lending a hand with mechanical fixes to the outside of the space station.

R2 was jointly developed and built by NASA and General Motors engineers at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. But some of engineering know-how and robotic innards came out of California locations, such as Malibu’s HRL Laboratories, Woodland’s JR3 Inc. and Santa Clara’s Cirexx International Inc.

Full Article in the LA Times.

About Cirexx International

Founded in 1980, Cirexx International, Inc. is an electronic solutions company offering PCB Layout, PCB Fabrication and PCB Assembly of high-reliability Printed Circuit Boards, RF/Microwave Circuit Boards, Flexible Printed Circuits and Rigid-Flex Circuit Boards. Recognized as a time-technology leader, the company offers a genuine Quick Turn service and provides a one stop shop and all in-house solution known as Seamless Integration. Cirexx has expertise fabricating high layer count Printed Circuit Boards using a variety of substrates including a wide array of high-frequency RF-based materials in mixed (hybrid) constructions. Cirexx delivers unsurpassed quality and support to a large array of customers in the high-reliability markets of defense/aerospace, industrial, and medical instrumentation.