A Boston Dynamics robodog is helping SpaceX investigate its Starship test site following explosion

Boston Dynamics is finally selling Spot units.
Image: Boston Dynamics

SpaceX is working hard to perfect its massive Starship rocket. On Wednesday, its SN10 prototype stuck the landing after an incredible freefall and rotational maneuver. Unfortunately, that success was short-lived since the craft exploded into a massive fireball just minutes after touching down.

Now, SpaceX is trying to unravel what went wrong while cleaning up its launch site in Boca Chica, Texas.

Ars Technica photographer Trevor Mahlmann spotted something interesting during the cleanup effort on Thursday. In a video on Twitter, he showed a Boston Dynamics Spot robot helping survey the site.

Given that this is a SpaceX operation, it isn’t exactly surprising to see a robot dog wandering around. However, the casual nature of the scene is a testament to the fact that Boston Dynamics’ popular robot has truly become a part of day-to-day operations for many companies.

Star Dog

This isn’t the first time that SpaceX has used its robodog to help out around its launch sites. The company has reportedly been using it for some time to help with its cleanup and inspection efforts after test launches.

Aptly named Zeus, the quadruped robot is able to walk around the site of a launch after something goes wrong to look for hazards like gas leaks. Since it is generally not safe for humans to be in those areas, Zeus gives SpaceX valuable insights into its facility and investigations.

It also helps with cleanup efforts, guiding engineers towards scattered rocket parts that need to be picked up or salvaged.

The robot dog has earned its place at SpaceX’s launch facility in Boca Chica. Recently, the company even installed a bright red doghouse for Zeus near the launch pad.

Soon, Zeus could be working even harder. Boston Dynamics recently revealed plans to make its quadruped robot more independent with things like self-charging and a helpful robotic arm. The model sighted at SpaceX’s facilities appears to be equipped with a camera and several sensors near its head. However, it’s unclear exactly what gear the spaceflight firm has equipped its robotic helper with.

Future of Work

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of robots and automation. In the coming years, more and more companies will start using robots to do jobs that would normally put humans workers in harm’s way.

The way that SpaceX uses Boston Dynamics’ Spot is a perfect example. The quadruped can be customized in almost any way to perform a wide variety of tasks. It’s also perfect for exploring vast sites to look for hazards.

The robodog is a perfect fit for SpaceX. It will soon be an important part of everyday operations for companies in other sectors as well. Areas like manufacturing, environmental research, and even construction could benefit from an extra helper.

Expect robotics applications like SpaceX’s to become more common in the next few years as companies look for fresh ways to increase the efficiency and safety of their operations.


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