Lightweight Robotic Excavation
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.
Small Business Information at Submission:
Astrobotic Technology, Inc.
4551 Forbes Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15213
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