Italian-Astronaut Personal Eye (I-APE) - 10.25.17

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ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Italian-Astronaut Personal Eye (I-APE) is a demonstration test created for the development of an autonomous micro-vehicle which will be used to support ISS crew IVA (Intra-Vehicular Activity) and EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity) operations. The micro-vehicle can be powered by lithium ion batteries and controlled by a microprocessor receiving inputs from IMUs (Inertial Measuring Units), based upon measurements obtained from gyroscopes (devices used for measuring or maintaining orientation).
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Giorgia Pontetti, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
Giorgia Pontetti, G & A Engineering, Oricola, Italy

Information Pending

G&A Engineering Srl., Oricola (AQ), Italy

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Italian Space Agency (ASI)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2011 - September 2011

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
ENEIDE (Esperimento di Navigazione per Evento Italiano Dimostrativo di EGNOS), a related experiment, was previously performed on the ISS in 2005. Increment 23/24 is the first planned increment for the I-APE investigation.

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Italian-Astronaut Personal Eye (I-APE) is an experiment performed to foresee the construction of a micro-aircraft designed for space application; both inside and outside of orbiting vehicles for IVA and EVA activities as a substitute or aid to the astronauts.

  • The demonstration test, referred to as I-APE Exp 0, will consolidate the chosen architecture as well as all of the design choices.

  • The impacts associated with I-APE includes: the availability of space micro-aircraft for intra- and extra- vehicular operations as aid for crewmembers, and the consequences of scientific, technological and economic relapses.

The I-APE experiment foresees the construction of a micro-aircraft for space application, usable both inside and outside of orbiting vehicles. The project is ambitious, as it is to be realized by employing technologies and solutions proprietary of the company using specialized components standard on the market. In particular, the micro-aircraft employs gyroscopic microsensors in MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) technology and micro-engines with "low-power" management, based upon a microcontroller and rechargeable battery elements of the last generation. Some of the parts that will be used have already been successfully tested on the ISS during the ENEIDE mission with the EST (Electronics Space Test) project. The micro-aircraft development has already been the subject of researchers by the GEA (Genetic and Evolutionary Algorithms) Research Center, which studies algorithms to be used for digital management of the attitude control loop for three axes. The I-APE experiment, which applies criteria of prudence, requires experimentation on orbit in three distinct logical phases:

  • Phase 1 - Testing of a device called I-APE Exp 0, of similar weight to the end device, and equipped with the parts necessary for power and one axis control.
    • Testing of this device will allow consolidation of the architecture chosen, along with all the design choices. This testing is considered sufficient to perform tests as part of a short duration mission.

  • Phase 2 - Review of the micro-aircraft for space application for use inside orbiting vehicles, called the I-APE Exp 1.
    • This is a first example of micro aircraft with three-axis attitude control, remotely controllable by the astronaut and able to carry as payload a colors micro camera with good resolution to transmit real-time the acquired images. It is believed that the testing of micro-cars must be conducted within a long-duration mission on the ISS.

  • Phase 3 - Micro-aircraft review in the final version, known as I-APE.
    • The testing of this version will be referred to the possibilities offered by the agency, subsequent to the mission of reference for Phase 2. I-APE is also equipped with thrusters that can operate both in microgravity and during EVAs.
During the ENEIDE Mission, a related experiment was carried out by ESA Astronaut Roberto Vittori, in April of 2005. Over the past years, there have been major technical improvements and a reduction in the size of electronic and micro-electronic devices utilized for space applications; nevertheless, these devices have the capability of encountering problems. In fact, the space environment may cause catastrophic effects on micro-electronic components and devices, due to shocks and vibrations, high temperatures, ionizing radiations and electromagnetic fields. Usually, all the space missions and experiments use space qualified components; nevertheless, these radiation resistant devices for space applications can cost up to 1000 times more than similar industrial components. While taking these factors into account, G & A Engineering has designed and developed a special radiation protective casing for low-cost industrial components qualified for space activities.

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Space Applications
The I-APE investigation provides the availability of space micro-aircraft for intra- and extra- vehicular operations as aid for the astronaut corps, as well as allows the reuse of knowledge pertaining to attitude control. The I-APE investigation employs technologies and solutions proprietary of the company using specialized components standard on the market; therefore, it is a low-cost solution for space.

Earth Applications
The I-APE experiment (especially in the last phase when it will be a complete micro-vehicle) could be used for educational purposes and to inspire future generations to pursue a career in the development of autonomous micro-vehicles which will be used to support ISS operations.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols
Before returning the APE sample to the ground, a video recording of the APE experiment is required to better correlate the data.
The I-APE hardware should not be switched to the "on" position for calibration purposes until it is stably attached to a panel using Velcro, so that it is stationary without vibrations. The crewmember has 30 seconds to take the I-APE hardware and let it free float in the experimental area, with a residual roll velocity less than 20 degrees per second. The crewmember should check to see when the "blue" LED light turns off; when this happens, the de-tumbling will begin and the I-APE hardware should stop its rotation on the roll axis (using a fuselage marker as reference). After about 10 seconds, the "blue" LED light should appear on again, and the "lock" will be activated; the roll angle locks by the IMU feedback. The "green" LED light activation shows a lock error less than 1 degree. The crewmember will check to ensure that the lock will last for 20 seconds, I-APE will perform some controlled rotations and some locks on angles of +/-90 degrees.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites
G&A Engineering: Microelectronics for Space

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image Illustration of the APE Exp. 0 hardware which has a cylindrical shape with a spherical radome located on the front. Illustration courtesy of ASI.
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