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A Robust Architecture for Sampling Small Bodies, Phase I

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

This proposal will develop an innovative architecture and concept of operations that permits reliable, safe, and repeated sampling of small bodies. The Lofted Regolith Sampling (LoRS) architecture is based on advanced astrodynamics and autonomy that is robust to target-body uncertainties and is adaptive during operations. The LoRS architecture is based on several key phases that ultimately lead to a thorough characterization of the target body and collection of multiple samples while avoiding complex and highly unpredictable landing requirements. The first phase of this characterization is the estimation of the body's gravitational field and remote sensing of the NEO surface. After sufficiently characterizing the body, the second phase of the proposed architecture is to disturb material on the surface of the small body such that it is lofted into orbit about the body. This disturbance can be initiated with a variety of chemical explosions, kinetic impactors, or other forces which will be evaluated during the proposed effort. The third phase is to remotely characterize the lofted material to identify key attributes such as size and composition. The fourth phase of operations is for the orbiting spacecraft to approach a specific portion of the debris field and collect physical samples from the NEO. Once samples have been collected in orbit, the vehicle can further evaluate the samples on-board, identifying key constituents etc., and return this information to terrestrial scientists. More »

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