NASA SBIR 2008 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 08-1 X3.01-8567
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Lunar Regolith Excavation and Material Handling
PROPOSAL TITLE: Impact-Actuated Digging Tool for Lunar Excavation

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)
Kris Zacny
460 W 34th Street
New York , NY 10001 - 2320
(646) 459-7836

Expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) upon completion of contract: 4 to 5

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Honeybee Robotics proposes to develop a vacuum compatible, impact-actuated digging tool for the excavation of frozen and compacted regolith on the lunar surface and in the permanently shadowed craters of the lunar poles. This technology development effort will address the most challenging aspects of excavation in the lunar environment and work to develop a design relevant to a range of future lunar missions. This effort will also serve to guide and inform the requirements for the vehicles and systems that will be necessary for such missions. The fundamental architecture of an impact-actuated digging tool has been demonstrated for terrestrial applications for the Department of Defense. Honeybee's digging tool design is a novel approach ideally suited for lunar applications to defeat compacted and frozen regolith. By using the impact energy imparted by a reciprocating hammer transferred through the scoop to defeat the target material, the need for large reaction loads from the vehicle is minimized, allowing for a much smaller, lower mass system. This ongoing effort will serve to instruct and maximize the benefit to NASA.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
NASA's draft lunar architecture calls for an outpost at a single location at the lunar pole and a proposed ISRU system for life support and EVA by 2023 and propulsion activities by 2027. The potentially frozen regolith at the lunar poles has been identified as a likely source for volatile extraction activities to support the presence of humans and provide a resource for the generation of fuel on the lunar surface. In order to meet these objectives, lunar regolith prospecting and excavation technologies such as the impact actuated digging tool will need to be brought to a high TRL for ISRU activities. The technologies stemming from this research will directly meet the Lunar Precursor and Robotic Program (LPRP) and human lunar exploration mission objectives. The resulting technologies will be robust enough to operate under the extreme lunar conditions, particularly in terms of exposure to the abrasive lunar regolith, and be scalable and adaptable to a wide range of potential system architectures for regolith excavation and volatile extraction. The same technology will be relevant to future Mars missions as well. Honeybee will build upon its proven record of bringing R&D efforts such as this one to successful flight contracts.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
There is an established interest from the Department of Defense in the development of digging tool technology appropriate for integration with small platform unmanned vehicles. Over 2000 such robotic platforms are currently fielded in Iraq and Afghanistan to deal with the persistent threat posed by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), with more on the way. Currently these systems are unable to access buried IEDs commonly deployed as roadside bombs due to the inadequate end-of-arm tooling and the limited reaction forces available. Honeybee sees this related effort to develop an impact actuated digging tool for lunar applications as helping to advance the state of the art for this critical application. With the completion of this Phase I and Phase II effort and the related effort for the DoD for whom we have delivered and fielded a prototype of a very similar system, Honeybee Robotics will have matured the fundamental technology to a high TRL for both lunar and terrestrial applications. This will position Honeybee well to pursue flight contracts for future NASA missions, support activities critical to the military, and seek out commercial markets for robotic digging technology.

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.

In-situ Resource Utilization
Integrated Robotic Concepts and Systems
Spaceport Infrastructure and Safety

Form Generated on 11-24-08 11:56