NASA SBIR 2004 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 04 X1.02-8478
SUBTOPIC TITLE: In-Situ Resource Excavation and Separation
PROPOSAL TITLE: Sample Acquisition for Materials in Planetary Exploration (SAMPLE)

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Orbital Technologies Corp
Space Center, 1212 Fourier Drive
Madison, WI 53717-1961

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Eric E. Rice
1212 Fourier Drive
Madison, WI 53717-1961

ORBITEC proposes to analyze, design, and develop a device for autonomous lunar surface/subsurface sampling and processing applications. The Sample Acquisition for Materials in Planetary Exploration (SAMPLE) allows a sample to be quickly and completely encapsulated, minimizing vibrational effects and sample disruption (e.g., loss of volatiles). Subsequent analysis or processing can then be performed on the acquired sample from within the device, which is completely sealed from the surrounding environment. SAMPLE interfaces with a robotic arm that allows versatile sample selection at a chosen site. Sample disposal involves no additional hardware, operating in an analogous manner to acquisition. The SAMPLE is capable of housing various sensors, small instruments, and utilities, providing a processing "chamber" in which numerous solid analyses and experiments can be performed. Because of the sampling mechanism employed, the SAMPLE will provide NASA with a reliable means of acquiring planetary surface material and support of process/analysis hardware. SAMPLE could be designed to operate anywhere on the surface of the Moon, Mars or various asteroids. This would include operation in the cold traps that exist at the north and south poles of the Moon. Phase I will involve definition of system requirements, prototype design and testing, and preliminary space flight design.

SAMPLE could be mounted on a rover along with a variety of other equipment to explore and characterize the resources that exist on the Moon, including the cold traps at the lunar poles. It is critical to characterize the type and form of any resources available within these lunar cold traps before collection and extraction equipment is designed, built and tested. SAMPLE would be an important tool to perform this characterization as well as serving as a small scale demonstration of several ISRU extraction technologies. SAMPLE could also be used for Mars, asteroid, and other planetary body exploration.

There are several related terrestrial applications of the SAMPLE technology. One important application could include the remote sampling of chemically or radioactive contaminated soils on Earth. A modified SAMPLE unit could also be used to support remediation of contaminated soils by releasing the volatile components present.