A Japanese talking robot has blasted off for the International Space Station on a mission to test how machines can help astronauts with their work - and chat to them too.

Kirobo, which has voice and facial-recognition technology, was packed into an unmanned cargo vessel along with tonnes of supplies and equipment for the crew of the orbital research base.

The cargo vessel launched from Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre is due to arrive at the ISS on Friday. 

At a recent demonstration, Kirobo said it "hoped to create a future where humans and robots live together and get along".

To enable the first robot-human chats in space, Kirobo's main conversation partner will be Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata.

He is expected to take off for the space station with six other crew members in November before taking command of the ISS by March.

Standing 34cm tall and weighing about 1kg, Kirobo is designed to navigate in zero gravity and gets its name from "kibo", the Japanese word for "hope", and "robot".

It will walk the walk and talk the talk in space until late 2014.