PlanetVac-Xombie2: Honeybee PlanetVac on the Masten Lunar Lander

PI: Kris Zacny, Philip Chu (Co-I), Honeybee Robotics Ltd. - Brooklyn

PlanetVac is a pneumatic device designed to collect regolith on another world that could be returned to Earth for analysis. It features a footpad-integrated sampling tube (along with a gas tank, valves, and electronics), a sample delivery tube, and sample sorting station. PlanetVac uses suction to accurately deliver a sample on demand. It attaches to the bottom of a lander vehicle leg, with operation remotely triggered upon touchdown. Vacuum action is achieved by a valve delivering compressed gas to the collection tube, thereby lifting the sample into the sorting station.

This is a continuation of T0179.

Technology Areas (?)
  • TA04 Robotics, Tele-Robotics and Autonomous Systems
  • TA08 Science Instruments, Observations and Sensor Systems
Problem Statement

Sample acquisition and delivery systems are a requirement of science, in-situ resource utilization, and sample return missions. Existing systems can be expensive, heavy, and power draining. They also struggle on cohesive and sticky soils as well as in microgravity. PlanetVac is potentially a more accurate, gravity-agnostic method of sample delivery that would reduce mass, volume, and delivery time. This experiment will attempt to demonstrate the technology’s ability to deliver samples to a location far away from the footpad and also to sort them.

Technology Maturation

PlanetVac has previously been tested with a collocated sample container. For this test, the container will be mounted on top of the lander, where instruments or sample return containers would naturally be located. Currently at TRL 5, this experiment would validate the feasibility of using PlanetVac in the context of an actual mission. Successful demonstration would establish the technology’s readiness for infusion into future space missions and potentially advance it to TRL 6.

Future Customers

• NASA missions, including Artemis and Commercial Lunar Payload Services landers
• Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Phobos sample return mission (infused)
• NASA New Frontiers and Discovery Program missions

Flight Experiment Objectives


Technology Details

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

Development Team

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