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Flexible Transfer of Regolith in Micro-Gravity and Vacuum

Award Information

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Award ID:
Program Year/Program:
2012 / SBIR
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Grainflow Dynamics, Inc.
1141 Catalina Drive, PMB 270 Livermore, CA -
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Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No
Phase 1
Fiscal Year: 2012
Title: Flexible Transfer of Regolith in Micro-Gravity and Vacuum
Agency: NASA
Contract: NNX12CD91P
Award Amount: $124,870.00


A novel, robust method of collection and transfer of NEO/Phobos material under micro-gravity conditions under vacuum/space environment with minimal loss of volatiles will be developed and its feasibility demonstrated. The same designs can also be utilized in lunar or Martian applications with only minor modifications. Design of the light-weight flexible conveyor ducts will utilize recently verified regolith simulation software to assure that the concepts are viable under microgravity conditions, and prototypes will be tested under vacuum conditions in Phase-1 (and under micro-gravity during Phase-2). Depending on the drill-head/feeder design selected, these flexible transfer ducts could be used in extraction of material from depths of a meter or more below the surface. Under Martian conditions a 1-cm-diameter conveying duct could deliver 5 kg/hr of material to a processing station for extraction/processing of volatiles. Trade-off studies during Phase-1 will determine potential power saving (if any) in larger diameter conveying ducts (e.g., 1.5 or 2cm dia) and/or the power requirements in a smaller diameter conveying duct (e.g. 0.5 cm dia) under Martian conditions. Unlike conventional screw conveyors, these flexible transfer ducts would be robust to oversize material up to a size of one-half the transfer duct radius. Coupled with an oversize-rejection inlet feeder, the system could provide high reliability transfer of loose regolith with one or two major moving parts. Modular designs are possible, as is the incorporation of energy-efficient ultrasonic (or percussion) drill heads, or sensors near a sub-surface inlet.

Principal Investigator:

Otis Walton
Principal Investigator

Business Contact:

Otis Walton
Business Official
Small Business Information at Submission:

Grainflow Dynamics, Inc.
1141 Catalina Drive, PMB 270 Livermore, CA -

EIN/Tax ID: 651243338
Number of Employees:
Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No