NASA SBIR 2018-II Solicitation

Proposal Summary

 18-2- S4.02-9662
 Robotic Mobility, Manipulation and Sampling
 Dust Tolerant Electropermanent Magnetic Tool Interface
SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Altius Space Machines, Inc.
3001 Industrial Lane, Unit #5
Broomfield, CO 80020
(801) 362-2310

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Keith Drake
3001 Industrial Lane, Unit #5
Broomfield, CO 80020 - 7153
(303) 725-2353

BUSINESS OFFICIAL (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Jonathan Goff
3001 Industrial Lane, Unit #5
Broomfield, CO 80020 - 7153
(801) 362-2310

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) :
Begin: 4
End: 5
Technical Abstract (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)

With the advancement of ever more capable robotic exploration of extraterrestrial bodies comes the need for low-power, low mass, and robust in-situ tools and manipulators. The current state-of-the-art used on robotic landers relies on large, bulky, and monolithic instrumentation turrets, consuming a significant proportion of mass budget which is tightly constrained for extraterrestrial missions such as Mars. 

Altius Space Machines has developed a novel electropermanent magnet (EPM) gripping technology that can be integrated into a modular, dust-tolerant end-effector or tool-changer assembly. These switchable magnets unlock a significant new design envelope and offer numerous advantages over mechanical connectors, including:

  • Dust-Tolerant Hermetic Design: EPM mating surfaces require no exposed moving electrical or mechanical parts on either side of the interface
  • High Reliability: The EPM Tool Changer has dramatically fewer moving parts than traditional mechanical tool changers, eliminating many potential failure modes
  • Low Actuation Power: The EPM magnetic latching system only consumers power (<5W) when the magnet is switching states, enabling indefinite holding without requiring additional power
  • Lightweight/Compact: With no need for complex mechanical latching systems, the proposed tool changer can be dramatically lighter and simpler than traditional mechanical solutions
  • Tight Reach Capability: The compact EPM tool changer enables insertion of sampling tools or sensors into much tighter geometric areas than would be possible with a turret or mechanical tool changer design
  • Built-in Mechanical Fusing: Because the connection force is provided magnetically, it is possible to design the tool changer such that if a specified torque or force limit is exceeded, the tool separates non-catastrophically from the tool changer, without damaging the robot arm

Phase I efforts have produced a TRL 4 tool-changer demonstrator, and the technology is ready for more advanced development. 

Potential NASA Applications (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)

Altius' EPM Tool-changer is best suited for use on robotic extraterrestrial missions, where a complex and heavy instrumentation turret can be replaced with a modular tool end-effector. This includes:

  • Lunar landers and rovers, including missions under the CLPS plan
  • Future Mars rovers, including Mars Sample Return missions
  • Rovers or landers designed for other dusty planetary and asteroidal bodies
Potential Non-NASA Applications (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)

Several terrestrial applications exist for Altius' EPM tool changer, including:

  • Dirty environment robotic tool changers, such as mining, oil & gas, or food service automation
  • Tool changer for underwater ROVs
  • Tool changer for robotic manipulators on commercial lunar landers or rovers
  • Tool changer for in-Space Assembly (iSA), manufacturing, or servicing spacecraft

Form Generated on 05/13/2019 13:33:33