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Honeybee Robotics PlanetVac on Masten Lander

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Honeybee Robotics PlanetVac on Masten Lander
Sample acquisition is one of the most critical and at the same time most difficult operations on the surface of a planetary body. For the past 10 years, funded via SBIR Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 (funding provided by the Planetary Society), Honeybee Robotics has been developing pneumatic based sample acquisition and transfer system. The system resembles a terrestrial vacuum cleaner (hence we call it a PlanetVac) but it works in vacuum (terrestrial vacuum cleaners do not work in vacuum). It’s an end to end system which deliver samples where needed in a matter of seconds. The PlanetVac technology has been steadily climbing up the TRL ladder and it is now at TRL4. The pneumatic system has been tested in a vacuum chamber at 1/6th G (on zero-g airplane) and demonstrated excavation efficiency of 1:6000 (1 gram of N2 gas at 6 psia lofted equivalent 6000 grams of JSC-1a lunar soil simulant). The scaled model of PlanetVac was also fabricated and tested in a large vacuum chamber ( . It demonstrated impact landing from 50 cm above the surface, sampler deployment into JSC-1a and Mars Mojave Simulant, and capture sample into deck mounted mock-up of an instrument and sample return vehicle. The system captured 20 gram sample and the sampling efficiency was 1:1000 (1 gram of N2 gas lofted equivalent 1000g of soil). With Masten Space Systems (Masten), we plan to test a full scale PlanetVac system and demonstrate a touch and go sample acquisition and capture. The demonstrations will include 1. take off and landing, 2. sample acquisition and capture into onboard container, 3. take off (and landing). The demonstrations will take place in Mojave Desert, which resembles planetary surfaces covered with regolith (Mars, Moon, Asteroids). This project will help to bring PlanetVac to TRL 5/6 and position PlanetVac technology for several missions from Asteroids, Comets, Mars, and the Moon including NASA New Frontiers: Lunar South Pole Aitken Sample Return, Mars Sample Return, and Comet Nucleus Sample Return. More »

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Project Duration

Technology Maturity (TRL)

Target Destination

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