NASA SBIR 2008 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 08-2 X5.01-8674
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Lunar Surface Systems
PROPOSAL TITLE: Autonomous Utility Connector for Lunar Surface Systems

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)
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 seeks to develop a scalable dust-tolerant, autonomous utility connector for lunar surface system applications with a focus on small pressurized rover recharge. Honeybee has heritage in developing mechanisms for extreme, dusty environments. There are many near-term applications of such a connector including: the utility and electrical connections that will be used on the next-generation lunar EVA suit, cryogenic utility connections that will be used to pass liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen during in-situ resource utilization activities, and high-power electrical connectors capable of thousands of cycles for the Lunar Electric Rover (LER) battery recharge and data transfer functions. The Phase I program has resulted in (1) environmental testing of breadboard lunar dust-tolerant alignment features for autonomous utility connections capable of accommodating ±20˚ angular and ±1.5cm lateral approach misalignment; and (2) a conceptual design that integrates the dust-tolerant alignment features with our dust-tolerant electrical connector and mechanical connection mechanisms based on lessons learned during environmental testing of the alignment feature breadboard. In Phase II, Honeybee will develop a prototype autonomous utility connector that integrates the alignment features, mechanical connection mechanism and electrical connection mechanism; testing the prototype in our lunar Dusty environment Simulation Test chamber that is capable of closely reproducing the conditions of the lunar surface. This effort will lead to the development of an autonomous dust-tolerant utility connector to TRL 6 with a focused application to the battery recharge connector for the LER being developed for the Constellation program.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The dust-tolerant autonomous 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 Lunar Electric Rover utility recharge connectors will require dust-tolerant technology. Discussions have already begun to this effect with engineers from NASA, Oceaneering, and Ball Aerospace.

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 autonomous 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 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 autonomous 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
Fluid Storage and Handling
In-situ Resource Utilization
Integrated Robotic Concepts and Systems
Manned-Maneuvering Units
Modular Interconnects
Portable Life Support
Testing Facilities

Form Generated on 08-03-09 13:26