NASA Developing Flying Drones for Other Worlds

A prototype built to test Extreme Access Flyer systems in different environments. (Credits: NASA/Swamp Works)
A prototype built to test Extreme Access Flyer systems in different environments. (Credits: NASA/Swamp Works)

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.

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NASA CubeSat & Smallsat SBIR, STTR Phase I Awards

CubeSat
CubeSat

NASA is continuing to fund the development of CubeSat and smallsat technology through its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

Last week, the agency announced it had selected at least 20 research projects focused on these classes of satellites. The proposals were selected for SBIR, SBIR Select and STTR Phase I awards.

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Honeybee Robotics Selected for SBIR & STTR Phase II Awards

honeybee_roboticsNASA has selected Honeybee Robotics for two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards and a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award to continue development of new technologies to explore and sample planets, asteroids and comets.

The SBIR Phase II awards are focused on a comet sampler system and a high-temperature (HT) Venus drill and sample delivery system. The STTR Phase II project is for developing asteroid prospecting technologies.

“Samples from comets, asteroids and small moons hold great scientific interest,” according to the comet sampler project summary. “Near term missions that would benefit this technology include NF4 Comet Surface Sample Return and Cryogenic Comet Nucleus Sample Return (CCSNR) Mission. The sampler can also be used on NASA Asteroid Redirect Mission.

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Golden Spike, Honeybee Complete Preliminary Study on Lunar Rover

Honeybee-Golden Spike rover
Honeybee-Golden Spike rover

BOULDER, Colo., Jul. 8, 2014 (Golden Spike/Honeybee PR) — The Golden Spike Company, the world’s first enterprise planning to undertake human lunar expeditions for countries, corporations and individuals, and Honeybee Robotics, a premier developer of advanced robotic systems, today announced they have completed a preliminary design study for unmanned rovers capable of enhancing the next human missions to the Moon.

In partnership with technical staff at Golden Spike, Honeybee engineers conducted trade studies of both flight-proven and promising technologies to design configurable robotic rovers that can collect and store several kilograms of scientific samples from the Moon’s surface in advance of or in conjunction with Golden Spike’s human expeditions.

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NASA Selects 18 Proposals for Asteroid Redirect Mission Studies

In this concept image, the robotic vehicle deploys an inflatable bag to envelop a free-flying small asteroid before redirecting it to a distant retrograde lunar orbit. (Credit: NASA)
In this concept image, the robotic vehicle deploys an inflatable bag to envelop a free-flying small asteroid before redirecting it to a distant retrograde lunar orbit. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 18 proposals for studies under the Asteroid Redirect Mission Broad Agency Announcement (BAA).  These six-month studies will mature system concepts and key technologies and assess the feasibility of potential commercial partnerships to support the agency’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, a key part of the agency’s stepping stone path to send humans to Mars.

The agency is working on two concepts for the mission. The first concept would fully capture a very small asteroid in free space and the other would retrieve a boulder off of a much larger asteroid. Both concepts would redirect an asteroid mass less than 10 meters in size to orbit the moon. Astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft launched on the Space Launch System (SLS) would rendezvous with the captured asteroid mass in lunar orbit and collect samples for return to Earth.

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Honeybee Robotics Receives 6 SBIR, STTR Phase 1 Awards

honeybee_roboticsNEW YORK (Honeybee Robotics PR) — Honeybee Robotics Spacecraft Mechanisms Corporation today announced it has received six NASA awards for technology development through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. The awards will fund new approaches to planetary sampling systems, spacecraft mechanisms, and unmanned ground vehicles for Earth and Lunar applications.

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Honeybee Robotics Selected for SBIR Phase II Awards

Hartley 2, Close Up  This image from the High-Resolution Instrument on NASA's EPOXI mission spacecraft shows part of the nucleus of comet Hartley 2. The sun is illuminating the nucleus from the right. A distinct cloud of individual particles is visible. This image was obtained on Nov. 4, 2010, the day the EPOXI mission spacecraft made its closest approach to the comet. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD
Hartley 2, Close Up This image from the High-Resolution Instrument on NASA’s EPOXI mission spacecraft shows part of the nucleus of comet Hartley 2. The sun is illuminating the nucleus from the right. A distinct cloud of individual particles is visible. This image was obtained on Nov. 4, 2010, the day the EPOXI mission spacecraft made its closest approach to the comet. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD

NASA has selected Honeybee Robotics of New York City for two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II awards for work on a comet surface sample return mission and the development of a nano-drill that could be used on that mission.

“The proposed Phase II investigation will focus on the development of spacecraft systems required to obtain a sample from the nucleus of a comet, hermetically seal the sample within a capsule, and return the sealed sample to an orbiting spacecraft which can return the sample to Earth,” according to the proposal summary.

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Golden Spike Partners With Honeybee Robotics to Design Robotic Lunar Rovers

golden_spike_logBOULDER, CO, December 10, 2013 (GS PR) – The Golden Spike Company—the world’s first enterprise planning to undertake human lunar expeditions for countries, corporations and individuals —announced today a partnership with Honeybee Robotics—a premier provider of robotic systems for space—to design unmanned rovers capable of enhancing the next human missions to the Moon.

Working with technical staff at Golden Spike, Honeybee engineers will conduct trade studies for the design of configurable robotic rovers that can collect and store scientific samples from the Moon’s surface in support of Golden Spike’s expeditions. The results of the study will be complete by mid-2014.

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PISCES Signs MOUs with Honeybee Robotics, Made in Space

PISCESHILO, Hawaii (PISCES PR) — The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES)  is excited to announce that it has expanded its list of Memoranda of Understanding (MOU’s) to eleven, after officially partnering with Honeybee Robotics and Made In Space. PISCES will partner with the companies on the Center’s 3D laser printing projects.

The signing took place at the PISCES Board of Director’s meeting on October 6th in Honolulu – the day before the Hawaii Aerospace Summit.

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Honeybee Robotics Tools Reach Milestone of 300 Excavations on Mars

The Robotic Arm on NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander carrying a scoop of Martian soil bound for the spacecraft's microscope. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)
The Robotic Arm on NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander carrying a scoop of Martian soil bound for the spacecraft’s microscope. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

Tools on Mars Exploration Rovers, Phoenix Lander and Mars Science Laboratory have completed 300 total excavations of Mars rocks and soil over the last decade, moving approximately 450 cc’s of material for scientific analysis

NEW YORK, NY (Honeybee PR) — Honeybee Robotics Spacecraft Mechanisms Corporation today announced that its tools on the last three generations of NASA’s Mars landers have reached a milestone, collectively completing 300 excavations of Martian dirt and rocks. This marks an important milestone for the physical exploration of the Martian landscape in the search for a habitable environment and in preparation for future human missions. In total, Honeybee’s four contact science tools have moved approximately 450 cc’s of material.

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Honeybee Robotics Selected for 2 NASA SBIR Awards

honeybee_roboticsNASA has selected Honeybee Robotics of New York City for two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I awards for work on a system to return a surface sample from a comet and a drill that can be used to extract soil samples from a variety of heavenly bodies.

“The proposed Phase I investigation will focus on the development of spacecraft systems required to obtain a sample from the nucleus of a comet, hermetically seal the sample within a capsule, and return the sealed sample to an orbiting spacecraft which can return the sample to Earth,” according to the comet proposal’s summary.

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