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Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer

Anchoring a lander on an asteroid using foam stabilization

Completed Technology Project
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Project Description

Anchoring a lander on an asteroid using foam stabilization, Phase I
NASA has proposed several missions to land a craft on an asteroid and potentially to return samples from it. While large asteroids in the asteroid belt can exhibit a significant amount of gravity, most near-earth asteroids are small and show a surface gravity of less than 0.1% of earth. Landing, and staying on the surface of such a small object is a challenge, especially for manned missions. Just the movement of an astronaut in and out of the lander during excursions would most likely dislodge the vehicle. Similarly, drilling for a sample return mission requires the ability to exert force onto the surface without pushing the lander off the surface. A solid anchoring system is required, but made difficult due to the potentially rubble-like consistency of small asteroids, which makes classic mechanical anchoring difficult. Adherent Technologies, Inc. (ATI) has developed innovative materials for space use for over a decade. These include inflatable structures, self-sealing membranes, coatings for satellites and solar sails, and vacuum-deployable foams. The proposed program will combine these technologies to produce an anchoring system that deploys either a sticky screen that can attach to a solid rock formation or a foam injection anchor that can bind a large amount of rubble as an anchoring point. The system is modular, and a decision which anchoring method to use only needs to be made on location. More »

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