NASA SBIR 2006 Solicitation


SUBTOPIC TITLE:Lunar Polar Resource Prospecting and Collection
PROPOSAL TITLE:Pneumatic Excavation Mechanism for Lunar Resource Utilization

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Honeybee Robotics Ltd.
460 W 34th Street
New York, NY 10001-4236
(212) 966-0661

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Kris   Zacny
NASA Research Park, Building 19, Room 1073, Box 370
Moffet Field, CA  10001-4236
(650) 938-8884

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT ( Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
As part of the NASA goal of "locating and characterizing lunar volatile resources", Honeybee Robotics proposes to investigate two novel technologies that both are powered by a new monopropellant, NOFB3, developed by Firestar Engineering. Honeybee will test key concepts for a pneumatic drill, intended for use in the lunar cold traps, and will also investigate a method for mining the top few centimeters of lunar regolith with a gas system that has no moving parts.
Analogous to the high-powered drilling done on Earth, the proposed pneumatic drill will derive its mechanical power from a chemical fuel (NOFB3), and it will use a fluid (in this case, low temperature exhaust gases extracted from the power system) to remove drill cuttings. A drill of this sort will have a number of advantages over traditional electromechanical drill/auger systems, including reduced power consumption, lower mass, less mechanical complexity, and better durability at extreme temperatures. In Phase I, the team proposes to investigate the production of mechanical power from the monopropellant via a small turbine, and, separately, to study removal of cuttings with gas flow while drilling in a laboratory vacuum chamber.
The second part of the proposed research will be to investigate a method for mining the top few centimeters of lunar regolith using a method similar to "jet-lift dredging". This method will use a stream of gas, also provided by the partial decomposition of NOFB3, to draw simulated lunar regolith into a delivery pipe connected to a storage bin. The system has no moving parts and is thus well suited for the abrasive lunar environment.
The proposed coupled propulsion/pneumatic system for excavation and prospecting will enable robust, rapid, subsurface access into an in-situ medium, and particularly into permanently shadowed regions on the moon without requiring solar illumination, potentially large nuclear power systems, or potentially complicated distributed power systems.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS ( Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The drilling and mining technologies stemming from this research will directly meet the Lunar Precursor and Robotic Program (LPRP) and human lunar exploration mission objectives. To date, traditional methods of drilling and mining have failed to reach high TRL levels. If this research is successful, the resulting technologies will have the simplicity and robustness to operate under the extreme lunar conditions, particularly in terms of exposure to the abrasive lunar regolith and the large temperature extremes. The same drilling technology could have applications on Mars and the mining system may also be suitable for future use on asteroids.
Given the large range of applications for gas generators in both aerospace and commercial applications, Firestar Engineering, LLC anticipates that this work will lead into focused product development after Phase 2. One immediate and closely related application that will be investigated for application is a pressurant system for upper stages and launch vehicles that may operate from NOFB3 monopropellant.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS ( Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The turbine-powered pneumatic drill system could be useful for terrestrial drilling in Polar Regions, where gasoline engines perform poorly at very cold temperatures. The basic system for generating power via a small turbine could also be adapted to other mechanical devices, such as pumps or winches. The monopropellant pressurant system (see previous section) could also be used by the commercial launch industry. In the distant future, on the order of several decades, the gas flow mining method investigated in this project could evolve into a commercial system for lunar or asteroid mining.

NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.

Aircraft Engines
Earth-Supplied Resource Utilization
Energy Storage
In-situ Resource Utilization
Integrated Robotic Concepts and Systems
Micro Thrusters
Operations Concepts and Requirements
Simulation Modeling Environment
Testing Facilities
Testing Requirements and Architectures
Thermodynamic Conversion

Form Printed on 09-08-06 18:19