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Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer

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

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

Free-Flying Unmanned Robotic Spacecraft for Asteroid Resource Prospecting and Characterization Project Image
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) and Honeybee Robotics (HBR) proposes to develop an integrated autonomous free-flyer robotic spacecraft system to support the exploration and subsequent resource utilization of asteroids as well as other planetary bodies and moons. The proposed spacecraft will address the first step towards In Situ Resource Utilization from Near Earth Object bodies; namely it will prospect it with sample acquisition devices and characterize the NEO for ISRU potential. Embry-Riddle and Honeybee Robotics propose an innovative resource prospecting mission concept based on autonomous small marsupial free-flyer prospector spacecrafts. Such technologies are currently being developed at Embry-Riddle. The spacecraft will utilize unique technologies such as MicroDrills and Pneumatic Samplers previously developed under other SBIR projects by Honeybee Robotics. In particular, the proposal will focus on flight control and reconfiguration for guidance under extreme environments, vision-aided navigation approaches, and sampling systems design, testing and evaluation. The proposed system will be developed, simulated and evaluated during Phase I of the project, and experimentally validated and demonstrated during Phase II through flight testing on an autonomous research platform. The successful completion of the proposed research is anticipated to provide a theoretical and experimental framework to investigate the capabilities of a marsupial-based robotic system to explore and extract samples from terrains that would be inaccessible to traditional rover-type vehicles and where traditional flight guidance and navigation sensors, such as GPS receivers and magnetometers, are not functional. More »

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