Increasing Fidelity for Lunar Sample Collection

PI: Kris Zacny, Honeybee Robotics Ltd. - Brooklyn, Matthew Kuhns (Co-I), Masten Space Systems Inc.

Honeybee's PlanetVac sample collection device was successfully tested on Masten’s Xodiac EDL testbed in 2018 (T0179). This earlier test used a plume deflector plate to prevent the rocket plume from blowing away sample regolith or impinging on the PlanetVac device. To further mature the system and prepare it for flight on upcoming missions (e.g. JAXA Mars Moon eXplorer) PlanetVac will be tested without the plume deflector to 1) understand how sample collection is affected by plume scouring for both fine and course sample types, 2) compare functionality to the prior test, and 3) test the capability of PlanetVac to handle the plume thermal environment. In these new tests, the plume environment will be controlled by replacing the solid deflector with a diffuser screen which enables simulation of its strength in a lunar environment. Five tethered flight tests are planned, enabling multiple sampling opportunities using fine grained and course / mixed regolith samples.

Technology Areas (?)
  • TA09 Entry, Descent and Landing Systems
Problem Statement

Crucial gaps in the understanding of engine plume physics make it impossible to develop reliable, high-fidelity modeling for lunar blast effects. These gaps include the following: prediction of erosion rate in the low-gravity, rarefied, supersonic flow conditions and prediction of deep cratering and fluidization physics under a large lander when the soil fails by shearing. This means that interactions between plumes, regolith, and sample collection equipment must be tested as it cannot as of yet be modeled accurately.

Technology Maturation

The main objective is to test the Honeybee developed sample acquisition and delivery system called PlanetVac on Masten’s Xodiac lander in a relevant and realistic (including plume impingement) planetary-like environment in the Mojave Desert. With the technology currently at TRL 5, a successful demonstration will show feasibility of this new configuration for sample collection systems on a rocket-powered vehicle.

Future Customers

NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services missions
NASA Human Landing System missions
Commercial lunar delivery missions

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    TechFlights19 (Oct 2019)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 0 sRLV

Development Team

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