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Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer

Flexible Transfer of Regolith in Micro-Gravity and Vacuum

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

Flexible Transfer of Regolith in Micro-Gravity and Vacuum
A novel, robust method of collection and transfer of NEO/Phobos material under micro-gravity conditions under vacuum/space environment with minimal loss of volatiles will be developed and its feasibility demonstrated. The same designs can also be utilized in lunar or Martian applications with only minor modifications. Design of the light-weight flexible conveyor ducts will utilize recently verified regolith simulation software to assure that the concepts are viable under microgravity conditions, and prototypes will be tested under vacuum conditions in Phase-1 (and under micro-gravity during Phase-2). Depending on the drill-head/feeder design selected, these flexible transfer ducts could be used in extraction of material from depths of a meter or more below the surface. Under Martian conditions a 1-cm-diameter conveying duct could deliver 5 kg/hr of material to a processing station for extraction/processing of volatiles. Trade-off studies during Phase-1 will determine potential power saving (if any) in larger diameter conveying ducts (e.g., 1.5 or 2cm dia) and/or the power requirements in a smaller diameter conveying duct (e.g. 0.5 cm dia) under Martian conditions. Unlike conventional screw conveyors, these flexible transfer ducts would be robust to oversize material up to a size of one-half the transfer duct radius. Coupled with an oversize-rejection inlet feeder, the system could provide high reliability transfer of loose regolith with one or two major moving parts. Modular designs are possible, as is the incorporation of energy-efficient ultrasonic (or percussion) drill heads, or sensors near a sub-surface inlet. More »

Anticipated Benefits

Primary U.S. Work Locations and Key Partners

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This is a historic project that was completed before the creation of TechPort on October 1, 2012. Available data has been included. This record may contain less data than currently active projects.