NASA SBIR 2007 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 07-1 S5.04-8566
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Surface and Subsurface Robotic Exploration
PROPOSAL TITLE: Enabling Tethered Exploration on Mars

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
The Manufactory, LLC
4047 Cabinet St
Pittsburgh, PA 15224 - 1453
(773) 412-3081

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Paul Bartlett
4047 Cabinet St
Pittsburgh, PA 15224 - 1453
(917) 482-4813

Expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) upon completion of contract: 2 to 4

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Strong science motivations exist for exploring hard to reach terrain on Mars and the leading systems proposed to do so require tethers. While tethers are used extensively in terrestrial fields, much research and development must take place to better assess their use for landed Mars missions and to raise the Technology Readiness Level of the solution. Many different technologies will need to be developed and carefully integrated to meet the goal of producing a capable, fault resistant system.

We intend to begin creating a body of work which will directly impact the development of a tether system usable for exploration of extreme terrain on Mars.

The three R&D areas begin with the highest priority: (1) Tether
design: Low volume & mass tether that transmits power, data & structural
loads while sustaining environments. (2) Spool design: Reliable, flight
relevant spooling mechanism. (3) Increased system intelligence &
reliability: Controls approaches for tethered vehicle operations; Sensing
tension & dynamic length; Maintaining 3d position knowledge of tether in
terrain; Considerations for later work towards fault diagnosis & recovery.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The primary NASA application is the exploration of gullies, steep crater walls and cliff faces on Mars with pairs or larger teams of robots. Science motivation for exploration of sites such as these is strong since in situ observations of preserved geologic strata would be enabled; including sedimentary rock and areas where water may have flowed in the recent past. Mission architectures are being pursued where robots are assisted or controlled completely by tethers.

Tethers are or will be used in many areas within the Science Mission Directorate's domain, as well as within Exploration Systems. Missions may eventually penetrate ices & explore subsurface seas on Europa & Enceladus, using tethers throughout. Aerobots could employ tethers on Mars & Titan, as well as non-landed spacecraft observing Phobos, Deimos, asteroids and comets. Subsurface access missions for science and resource utilization on terrestrial planets could require wire-line drilling & borehole instrumentation. Mobile robots at the lunar poles would be in very similar steep terrain conditions to the primary design case. Finally, there are on-orbit applications for improved tether systems such as satellites in coordinated flight, power harnessing, and Shuttle & Space Station operations.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Initial assessment of the tether and tether management designs proposed suggest that there is potential for spin-off in the deep sea applications. Tethers for Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) and Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) are a clear area. From communications with colleagues at MBARI, the field would seem to benefit from developments in ruggedized tethers, increased power & communication capabilities with decreased weight, and increased state knowledge of the tether system, including tension and position. Much can be learned from this community as well.

The primary design case for supporting tethered vehicles on Mars applies well to ground terrestrial vehicles in rough terrain. Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) in tethered configurations could apply both the intelligent sensing & management attributes and the transmission of power & data. Areas of application also include supporting inspection robots in mines, infrastructure as pipes, and Homeland Security scenarios such as rubble pile sites. As mentioned above, deep drilling and borehole sensing on land could also employ these technologies.

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.

Integrated Robotic Concepts and Systems

Form Generated on 09-18-07 17:50