NASA SBIR 2009 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 09-1 X6.01-9100
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Robotic Systems for Human Exploration
PROPOSAL TITLE: Lightweight Robotic Excavation

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Astrobotic Technology Inc.
4551 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213 - 3524
(412) 682-3282

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Alexander Gutierrez
4551 Forbes Avenue, Suite 300
Pittsburgh, PA 15213 - 3524
(412) 682-3282

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 2
End: 3

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)

Robust, lightweight, power-efficient excavation robots are mission
enablers for lunar outposts and surface systems. Lunar excavators of this
type cost-effectively utilize native materials for both outpost
preparation and in-situ resource utilization. They address the need for
implements that dig, collect, transport, and dump lunar soil. Past
prototypes, while providing valuable insights, have either been too large,
too slow, or had too little pound-for pound regolith moving capacity
(payload ratio) to be real options for a lunar outpost. Novel designs
incorporating dump beds, high-speed driving, and composite materials are
game changers, making lightweight excavation robots advantageous for lunar
site and surface work.

Performance of elemental actions such as digging or driving has been
studied, but it is performance in achieving a site-level task like berm
building that matters. This proposal team has identified payload ratio
and driving speed as dominating parameters governing site work. This has
been done by creating and applying a task-level simulator, REMOTE
(Regolith Excavation, Mobility & Tooling Environment), for a prior NASA
contract. Current excavation force models do not adequately address
cohesion and soil-tool friction within a lunar-relevant regime, as this
work proposes to do. Trade studies and prototypes of lunar excavators are
informative, but direct controlled comparisons of configuration options
(ex. loader or dozer) will yield the best means of choosing a real design.

The Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at the beginning of the proposed
Phase I work is 2. The anticipated results of Phase I include a prototype
design as well as experimental data supporting the feasibility of the
concept, bringing the TRL to 3. Phase II will result in a completed
prototype that will be used to validate predictions of key parameters,
bringing the TRL to 4.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Regolith excavation is a fundamental need of government and commercial endeavors on the moon in establishing habitats, landing zones, observatories, roads and resource utilization facilities. The innovation of lightweight excavation robots will enable NASA and other surface operators to deploy a robust solution to excavation early in these development activities because the delivered mass is minimized and thus suitable for inclusion in the beginning phases of surface development.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Astrobotic will commercialize this technology through incorporation into its own series of private-sector lunar robots to perform services and emplace payloads for both commercial and government customers.

Development of teleoperation and autonomy technology for small excavation robots will also lead to commercialization opportunities in earthworking equipment. In terrestrial construction, small excavation machines are specialized for work in tight spaces. These machines are volume-minimized, but even the smallest are still on-board human operated. Further minimization of machines for even more constrained work as well as unstable environments where the life of a human operator would be at risk can be achieved via teleoperation and autonomy.

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
Simulation Modeling Environment

Form Generated on 09-18-09 10:14