By using steam rather than fuel, the microwave-size spacecraft prototype
can theoretically explore celestial objects “forever.”
By Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala
University of Central Florida News
Using steam to propel a spacecraft from asteroid to asteroid is now possible, thanks to a collaboration between a private space company and the University of Central Florida.
UCF planetary research scientist Phil Metzger worked with Honeybee Robotics of Pasadena, California, which developed the World Is Not Enough spacecraft prototype that extracts water from asteroids or other planetary bodies to generate steam and propel itself to its next mining target.
Video Caption: OrbitBeyond has been awarded the master contract by NASA for its CLPS program to carry scientific & commercial payloads to the Moon: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/na…
The Engineering team at OrbitBeyond is led by Jeff Patton, former Development Program Systems Engineering and Integration Manager at ULA.
OrbitBeyond has engaged TeamIndus for Lander engineering, Honeybee Robotics for payload integration, Advanced Space for mission management, Ceres Robotics for surface operations, and Apollo Fusion for future programs.
OrbitBeyond. Inc, is a cislunar transportation company committed to providing global customers with reliable, repeated and affordable services to the lunar surface. We are developing delivery platforms at a cost and scale that will enable rapid and sustained space exploration.
MOJAVE, Calif. (NASA PR) — Just a sample will do.
Honeybee Robotics in Pasadena, California, flight tested its pneumatic sampler collection system, PlanetVac, on Masten Space Systems’ Xodiac rocket on May 24, launching from Mojave, California, and landing to collect a sample of more than 320 grams of top soil from the surface of the desert floor.
WASHINGTON, May 31, 2018 (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 10 companies to conduct studies and advance technologies to collect, process and use space-based resources for missions to the Moon and Mars. NASA placed a special emphasis on encouraging the responders to find new applications for existing, terrestrial capabilities that could result in future space exploration capabilities at lower costs.
The practice of in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) could increase safety and affordability of future human spaceflight missions by limiting the need to launch supplies, such as oxygen and water from Earth. NASA issued Appendix D of the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP) Broad Agency Announcement on Dec. 4, 2017. With it, the agency sought three areas of work focused on producing propellant and other exploration mission consumables using water from extraterrestrial soils and carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere.
The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at three Phase I awards focused on the exploration of moons and asteroids.
Shapeshifters from Science Fiction to Science Fact: Globetrotting from Titan’s Rugged Cliffs to its Deep Seafloors
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
SPARROW: Steam Propelled Autonomous Retrieval Robot for Ocean Worlds
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Meteoroid Impact Detection for Exploration of Asteroids (MIDEA)
Each award is worth up to $125,000 for a nine-month study. Descriptions of the awards are below.
From that list, I’ve extracted agreements with individual companies. Below you will find tables listing SAAs that NASA has signed with Virgin Group companies, Moon Express and NanoRacks. There is also a fourth table that has SAAs with a number of companies and organizations that we follow on Parabolic Arc.
SAAs come in three varieties: reimburseable, non-reimburseable and funded. Under reimburseable agreements, a company or organization will pay NASA for its services. No money exchanges hands under non-reimburseable agrements. And under funded agreements, NASA pays the company to perform work or provide services. (The space agency made substantial use of SAA’s in the Commercial Crew Program.)
BROOKLYN, NY (Honeybee Robotics PR) — Honeybee Robotics Spacecraft Mechanisms Corporation announced it has been acquired by Ensign-Bickford Industries (“EBI”), a 181-year-old privately held corporation with headquarters in Simsbury, Connecticut. Following the acquisition, Honeybee Robotics will be a stand-alone, wholly-owned subsidiary of EBI and will complement EBI’s current aerospace & defense subsidiary, Ensign-Bickford Aerospace & Defense (“EBAD”). The company will continue to serve customers from its current facilities in Brooklyn, NY, Longmont, CO, and Pasadena, CA.
Honeybee Robotics will begin developing new technologies that would allow a lander to drill into the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa and collect samples for analysis with the help of a pair of NASA small business awards.
The titles of the two selected projects are:
- The Stinger: A Geotechnical Sensing Package for Robotic Scouting on a Small Planetary Rover; and,
- Strut Attachment System for In-Space Robotic Assembly.
According to the proposal summary, the Stinger is “a percussive shear vane penetrometer capable of measuring near-surface and subsurface soil properties to a depth of 50 cm or greater.”
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Flight Opportunities program has selected 13 space technology payloads to flight test on parabolic aircraft, high-altitude balloons or suborbital launch vehicles to demonstrate new technologies. The selections were made through the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) in Washington.
The selected projects include:
- Extraterrestrial Metals Processing — Pioneer Astronautics
- Robotic ISRU Construction of Planetary Landing and Launch Pad — Honeybee Robotics
- Extruded Clay-Based Regoliths for Construction on Mars, Phobos and NEAs — Deep Space Industries
- In-Situ Generation of Polymer Concrete Construction Materials — Luna Innovations
- ISP3: In-Situ Printing Plastic Production System for Space Additive Manufacturing — Altius Space Machines
- Compact In-Situ Polyethylene Production from Carbon Dioxide — Opus 12
- Micro-Channel Reactor for Processing Carbon Dioxide to Ethylene — Reactive Innovations
- OpenSWIFT-SDR for STRS Polyethylene Production from In-Situ Resources in Microchannel Reactors — TDA Research
Full descriptions of the projects are below.
The selected proposals include:
- STTR: Robotic ISRU Construction of Planetary Landing and Launch Pad (Partnered with Michigan Technological University)
- STTR: In-Situ Spectroscopic Europa Explorer (Partnered with SETI Institute Carl Sagan Center)
- SBIR: The Stinger: A Geotechnical Sensing Package for Robotic Scouting on a Small Planetary Rover
- SBIR: Planetary Vacuum Cleaner for Venus and Mars
- SBIR: Dust-Tolerant, High Pressure Oxygen Quick Disconnect for Advanced Spacesuit and Airlock Applications
- SBIR: Strut Attachment System for In-Space Robotic Assembly
- SBIR: High Temperature Joint Actuator
Descriptions of the research projects follow.
Under one award, Honeybee will develop a system capable of extracting and processing water and other volatile materials from the soil. The other award will fund the development of a hermetically sealed capsule for the return of soil samples from other worlds.
By Steven Siceloff
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center
Swamp Works engineers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are inventing a flying robotic vehicle that can gather samples on other worlds in places inaccessible to rovers. The vehicles – similar to quad-copters but designed for the thin atmosphere of Mars and the airless voids of asteroids and the moon – would use a lander as a base to replenish batteries and propellants between flights.