NASA SBIR 2007 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 07-2 X7.04-9485
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Surface System Dust Mitigation
PROPOSAL TITLE: Dust-Tolerant, Reusable Connection Mechanism for Lunar Environments

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Honeybee Robotics Ltd.
460 W 34th Street
New York, NY 10001 - 2320
(646) 459-7802

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Jason Herman
460 West 34th Street
New York, NY 10001 - 2320
(646) 459-7819

Expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) upon completion of contract: 6

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Lunar dust has been identified as a significant and present challenge in future exploration missions. Significant development is called for in the area of devices and structures that tolerate or mitigate the presence of Lunar dust. Honeybee Robotics Spacecraft Mechanisms Corporation (SMC) seeks to develop methods for mitigating dust accumulation on reusable connection mechanisms, such as will be necessary for Lunar extra-vehicular activity and surface systems equipment. Honeybee has heritage in developing mechanisms for extreme, dusty environments. Near-term applications of such a connector include the utility and electrical connections that will be used on the next-generation Lunar EVA suit being developed for NASA JSC by Oceaneering Space Systems, as well as cryogenic utility connections that will be used to pass liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen during in-situ¬ resource utilization (ISRU) activities. The Phase 1 research has resulted in the development of a dust-tolerant, manual electrical connector for the battery recharge circuit of the Portable Life Support Backpack (PLSB) being developed for the Constellation configuration two (Lunar EVA) suit. Phase 1 breadboard testing showed 53 successful mate/de-mate cycles in the presence of JSC-1AF simulant prior to failure. In addition, this failure appears to be the result of a late addition to the mechanical configuration that can be revised for even better performance. In Phase II, Honeybee will revise the design of the dust-tolerant connector, investigate design configurations for utility connections for ISRU activities, and test a connector brassboard in a chamber capable of closely reproducing conditions on the Lunar surface. This effort will lead to the development of a dust-tolerant electrical connector with a focused application to the Constellation configuration two (Lunar EVA) suits. This will result in a TRL 6 Lunar dust-tolerant electrical connector.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The dust-tolerant reusable connection mechanisms to be developed through this project will be an enabling technology for extended Lunar operations in that they will allow several cycles of utility connection and disconnection for EVA and surface operations. Future mission scenarios involving erectable structures, diverse EVA-compliant tools, Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU)-to-rover or EMU-to-robot interfaces, and other in-situ assembly or interconnection activities will all call for dust-tolerant reusable connectors. In particular, the Constellation configuration two (Lunar EVA) suit being developed by Oceaneering Space Systems (OSS) has many connectors on it that require dust-tolerant technology. Initial discussions with personnel from OSS have already begun, and OSS has signed-on to the Phase 2 effort as a consultant. The will provide data, requirements, and technical criticism of the connector developed during the Phase 2 effort. The technology developed here is also applicable to the exploration of Mars (where frequent global dust stomrms occur) and asteroids, but is driven by the especially abrasive characteristics of Lunar dust.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Military and homeland security operations are often conducted in uncontrolled environments. An increasing use of high-technology tools provides for improved performance, but also introduces new risks. The incorporation of dust-tolerant reusable connection mechanisms in military couplings will allow greater reliability and flexibility for modular electronics in operational scenarios, especially in dusty, dirty, sandy environments. Incorporation of dust-tolerant connectors would also reduce maintenance, repair, and overhaul costs by reducing select component failures due to degradation by dust and sand. Current connectors meet stringent mil-spec environmental requirements when connected, but the connection itself must be made under relatively clean conditions. We expect that adding a tolerance to making and breaking connections under off-nominal conditions will result in an increased service life for modular electronics for use in military and homeland security applications. There is also broad commercial potential for dust-tolerant reusable connectors in several commercial applications requiring the reliable performance of modular electronics in uncontrolled environments, including oil and gas exploration, first responders and emergency services, heavy and highway construction, and mining. By employing dust-tolerant connectors, rather than attempting to seal dust intolerant connectors against the environment, the connectors used in these applications may be truly ruggedized.

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.

Airlocks/Environmental Interfaces
Earth-Supplied Resource Utilization
Fluid Storage and Handling
Human-Robotic Interfaces
In-situ Resource Utilization
Integrated Robotic Concepts and Systems
Liquid-Liquid Interfaces
Manned-Maneuvering Units
Modular Interconnects
Portable Life Support
Testing Facilities

Form Generated on 10-23-08 13:36