'Flying brain' blasts off on cargo ship toward space station

A ball-shaped artificial intelligence robot nicknamed the "flying brain" because it is trained to follow and interact with a German astronaut, blasted off on Friday toward the International Space Station aboard SpaceX's Dragon cargo ship.

A new, spare hand for the station's robotic arm, an experiment to measure plant stress in space and a study of a new cancer treatment were also on board as the Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 05:42 (09:42 GMT).

"We have ignition and liftoff! The Falcon 9 rocket powers the Dragon spacecraft toward the International Space Station," said a NASA commentator as the white rocket soared skyward under cover of darkness on the early Florida morning.

The unmanned Dragon capsule carried 2 700kg on its 15th supply mission to the orbiting lab, as part of a $1.6bn contract with NASA.

Both the capsule and the rocket have flown before. The Dragon sent cargo to space ion 2016 and the Falcon blasted off a NASA satellite two months ago.

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