The International Space Station (ISS) is to get a new permanent resident later this year - in the form of a humanoid robot.

Robonaut 2, or R2, has been jointly developed by NASA and General Motors to help with the work of the astronauts at the ISS and will go into space in September 2010. The robot, which weighs 136 kilograms, has a head, torso, arms and hands, enabling it to perform dexterous activities and assist humans.

R2 can currently use the same tools as humans to work inside the ISS, but the hope is that eventually it will be able to assist, or even stand in for humans in dangerous activities such as spacewalks.

"This project exemplifies the promise that a future generation of robots can have both in space and on Earth, not as replacements for humans but as companions that can carry out key supporting roles," said NASA's John Olson.

"The combined potential of humans and robots is a perfect example of the sum equaling more than the parts. It will allow us to go farther and achieve more than we can probably even imagine today."

NASA intends to test R2's performance inside the ISS, collecting data about the humanoid's ability to work in microgravity conditions and how well it works side by side with astronauts. For American car giant General Motors, the results could help the development of manufacturing operations.

R2 is currently undergoing vibration, vacuum and radiation testing before it is sent to the ISS with Space Shuttle Discovery as part of the STS-133 mission planned for September. STS-133 will be the last planned mission of the US Space Shuttle program, with Russian Soyuz rockets taking responsibility for carrying astronauts from 2011.