NASA SBIR 2007 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 07-1 S5.04-8749
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Surface and Subsurface Robotic Exploration
PROPOSAL TITLE: Robotic Tool Changer for Planetary Exploration

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Honeybee Robotics Ltd.
460 W 34th Street
New York, NY 10001 - 2320
(212) 966-0661

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Kiel Davis
460 West 34th Street
New York, NY 10001 - 2320
(646) 459-7809

Expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) upon completion of contract: 3 to 4

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Future planetary exploration missions will require compact, lightweight robotic manipulators for handling a variety of tools & instruments without increasing the weight of the robot arm. The current design philosophy of MER, Beagle 2, Phoenix & MSL, sees select tools and instruments permanently affixed to the arm end-effector. Future missions will be size & mass constrained and will need to be more capable than their predecessors. One technical solution that would enable deployment of multiple tools and instruments from a compact, lightweight manipulator is an electromechanical coupler or tool changing mechanism which can reliably take a tool or instrument out of a magazine and couple it, form-locking and force-locking, to the end-effector.

The program's ultimate goal is to develop and demonstrate a highly reliable and scalable robotic tool-change system in a relevant environment from a relevant robotic platform. In Phase I, we will perform a detailed investigation of robotic tool-changer requirements, design strategies and tall poles for robotic systems exploring Mars and the Moon, including first order experiments to verify feasibility of specific enabling design features. Requirements such as cycles, stiffness, strength, repeatability, misalignment-tolerance and electrical characteristics will be derived by considering MER and Phoenix as models for instrument type and operational patterns, robotic arm capability and environment and by deriving future mission requirements. There are a few terrestrial applications (ROVs in the off-shore oil industry) and space applications (Shuttle and ISS RMS Latching End-Effector system) for which a subset of design strategies may be applicable. We will consider these and leverage lessons learned from our experience with (1) electromechanical systems for MER, Phoenix and MSL which perform reliably in dusty environments and (2) our high TRL designs for electrical and mechanical robotic connections both for Mars and on-orbit.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Proposed future missions to Mars and the Moon will require spacecraft equipped with compact and lightweight robotic manipulators that are flexible and universally usable. Such manipulators will need to be capable of handling different types of tools and instruments without increasing the weight of the robot arm. End-of-arm mass, cabling and packaging constraints inevitably limit the type and number of tools that may be carried by the arm. In addition to current tasks such as placement of sensing instruments, digging, grinding and drilling tools, some of the tasks potentially facing future smaller robotic arms include manipulation and transfer of sample storage containers, remote sensor emplacement and spacecraft inspection and repair.

Dust tolerant Tool-Changer and Gripper systems will be key components to future exploration missions and would find extensive applications in systems designed to operate on Mars, the Moon and other dusty environments. Future mission scenarios featuring flexible, universal architectures for robotic end-of-arm sensing and sampling and other in-situ assembly or interconnection activities, will all call for such connections. These might include the Astrobiology Field Lab, Dual Mid-size Rovers, Mars Sample Return and next-decade landed lunar missions.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Coupling methods developed in this effort will have robotic, construction and device interconnection applications in terrestrial harsh environments, such as deserts and dry climates, down-hole geothermal and oil machines, and mining operations.

Within the military and homeland security worlds, the current emphasis with respect to robotics is on IED detection and defeat, Explosive Ordnance Disposal and resolution of other situations that may be hazardous to humans (e.g., battlefield extraction). As operator adeptness and general familiarity with robotic systems grows, robotic platforms are increasingly being called into dangerous situations in the harsh desert environments of Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, local municipal Bomb Squads use robotic platforms every day to interrogate and neutralize suspicious situations. Anything that makes these robots more flexible and robust is highly sought after. Even with the most widely used unmanned ground vehicles, operators must drive the robot back into a safe zone to change end-effectors. A Tool-Changer system developed by Honeybee to sell to American UGV platform providers would be a commercial success.

There is also a strong demand for ultra-reliable and flexible robotic platforms with tool-exchange capability in the fields of Nuclear Facility Decommissioning, Hazard Emergency Response, as well as robotic mining systems.

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
Modular Interconnects

Form Generated on 09-18-07 17:50