Honeybee Robotics Selected for SBIR & STTR Phase II Awards

honeybee_roboticsNASA has selected Honeybee Robotics for two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards and a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award to continue development of new technologies to explore and sample planets, asteroids and comets.

The SBIR Phase II awards are focused on a comet sampler system and a high-temperature (HT) Venus drill and sample delivery system. The STTR Phase II project is for developing asteroid prospecting technologies.

“Samples from comets, asteroids and small moons hold great scientific interest,” according to the comet sampler project summary. “Near term missions that would benefit this technology include NF4 Comet Surface Sample Return and Cryogenic Comet Nucleus Sample Return (CCSNR) Mission. The sampler can also be used on NASA Asteroid Redirect Mission.

“The HT drill and sample transfer system would be used on New Frontiers Venus (Venus In Situ Explorer) mission,” the summary states. “Missions to other planetary bodies with atmospheres (Titan, Mars) could also benefit this technology.”

The STTR project is focused on developing a free-flying robotic spacecraft for asteroid resource prospecting and characterization. The research and development work is being done in partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University of Daytona Beach, Fla.

SBIR and STTR Phase II contracts are valued at up to $750,000 and last no more than two years. Phase III, or the commercialization of an innovation, may occur after successful completion of Phase II.
Summaries of the projects follow.

Honeybee Robotics, Ltd.
Brooklyn, NY

SBIR

Pyramid Comet Sampler
Subtopic Title: Robotic Mobility, Manipulation and Sampling

Principal Investigator/Project Manager
Kris Zacny

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 5

Technical Abstract

During Phase 1, we investigated a number of blade designs for 2, 3, and 4 blade sampler geometries. We found that blades with small apex angles can penetrate harder formations with much lower energies. We propose to develop a 3 or 4 blade design for sampling much harder (4 MPa and more) material.

During Phase 2 we will initially perform more extensive blade testing to determine optimum design, we will also investigate use of pyros to deploy blades, breadboard and test force neutral deployment and investigate One Resettable vs Multiple Samplers architectures. These studies will lead to 3 vs 4 blade architecture study (Tetrahedron Comet Sampler or TeCos and Pyramid Comet Sampler or PyCoS) and downselection. The TRL 4 TeCoS or PyCoS will then be build and tested. The results will be used to design TRL 5 system. The TRL prototype will then be build and tested in a range of analog materials from 5 DOF arm to mimic 2-3 DOF TAG arm and spacecraft movement.

Potential NASA Commercial Applications

Samples from comets, asteroids and small moons hold great scientific interest. Near term missions that would benefit this technology include NF4 Comet Surface Sample Return and Cryogenic Comet Nucleus Sample Return (CCSNR) Mission.

The sampler can also be used on NASA Asteroid Redirect Mission.

Potential Non-NASA Commercial Applications

The sampling probe and canister subsystems for touch and go sampling could be repurposed for capturing of samples from hazardous terrestrial sites (nuclear reactors, chemical spills). The samplers could be deployed from quadcopters. Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, companies interested in asteroid mining for economic gains, would benefit these technologies as well.

Technology Taxonomy Mapping

  • Deployment
  • Exciters/Igniters
  • Machines/Mechanical Subsystems
  • Metallics
  • Models & Simulations (see also Testing & Evaluation)
  • Prototyping

SBIR

High Temperature Venus Drill and Sample Delivery System
Subtopic Title: Extreme Environments Technology

Principal Investigator/Project Manager
Kris Zacny

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 5

Technical Abstract

Under Phase 1, we investigated HT Drill, HT Trencher, and Pneumatic Sample Delivery. We found that HT Trencher and Blower-based pneumatic system won’t be feasible or carried high risk associated with development of HT cutter materials. Rotary drill also did not penetrate hard rocks.

For Phase 2, we propose HT Rotary-Percussive drill and ‘suction’ based pneumatic sample delivery.

Honeybee is also submitting a separate Phase 2 for 3 DOF HT arm. If that proposal gets selected, the arm will deploy the drill and deposit the sample. The pneumatic system would still be needed to move the sample into an instrument.

We plan to design and build TRL 5 system and incorporate HT motors developed by Honeybee under prior SBIR projects. The demonstration will be done in a HT chamber. We will investigate possibility of testing at NASA JPL’s Venus chamber. The demo will include drilling into hard rocks and sample transfer to a mock up instrument.

Potential NASA Commercial Applications

The HT drill and sample transfer system would be used on New Frontiers Venus (Venus In Situ Explorer) mission. Missions to other planetary bodies with atmospheres (Titan, Mars) could also benefit this technology.

Potential Non-NASA Commercial Applications

The HT technology is required for geothermal drilling applications as well as in Oil and Gas industry where wells are deeper and in much hotter regions (300 C and more).

The small, robust sampling systems could also be used in hazardous locations (e.g. concrete samples from nuclear reactors or soil samples from chemical spills, and volcanos).

Technology Taxonomy Mapping

  • Actuators & Motors
  • lgorithms/Control Software & Systems (see also Autonomous Systems)
  • Characterization
  • Deployment
  • Isolation/Protection/Shielding (Acoustic, Ballistic, Dust, Radiation, Thermal)
  • Machines/Mechanical Subsystems
  • Models & Simulations (see also Testing & Evaluation)
  • Prototyping
  • Robotics (see also Control & Monitoring; Sensors)
  • Structures

STTR

Free-Flying Unmanned Robotic Spacecraft for
Asteroid Resource Prospecting and Characterization

Research Subtopic Title: Regolith Resources Robotics – R3

Honeybee Robotics, Ltd.
Brooklyn, NY

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Daytona Beach, FL

Principal Investigator/Project Manager
Dr Hever Moncayo

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 4
End: 5

Technical Abstract

In Phase 2 we will develop a fully integrated, autonomous free-flying robotic system based on a commercial SkyJib quadcopter, and demonstrate flying straight and level to a target location, acquisition of rock and regolith samples, and return to the point of origin.

The work plan for Phase 2 is as follows:

  1. Completion of the Guidance, Navigation, Control, Vision, and Sample Acquisition subsystems.
  2. Integration of all the payload elements at ERAU and system level check out]
  3. Demonstration of the entire system at NASA KSC
  4. Field deployment at analog location

Potential NASA Commercial Applications

In 2010, President Obama called for a new approach to space exploration, which would include human and robotic exploration of asteroids. The first step in this program would be Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM) currently under study at NASA. Characterization of these objects would require novel approaches akin to what is here proposed.

In the latest Decadal Survey, the committee recommended selecting a Comet Surface Sample Return mission as one of the NF4 missions.

Potential Non-NASA Commercial Applications

Sampling of contaminated soils and liquid from hazardous environments (nuclear reactors, chemical spills etc.).

Geologists could use it to capture samples from hard to reach areas, such as for example lava-tubes in Hawaii. Cameras and sensors could map the area and give the geological context.

Commercial companies such as Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, who are interested in asteroid mining for economic gains, could also use this technology.

Technology Taxonomy Mapping

  • Autonomous Control (see also Control & Monitoring)
  • Navigation & Guidance
  • Perception/Vision
  • Relative Navigation (Interception, Docking, Formation Flying; see also Control & Monitoring; Planetary Navigation, Tracking, & Telemetry)
  • Robotics (see also Control & Monitoring; Sensors)
  • Spacecraft Design, Construction, Testing, & Performance (see also Engineering; Testing & Evaluation)
  • Spacecraft Instrumentation & Astrionics (see also Communications; Control & Monitoring; Information Systems)
  • Tools/EVA Tools