May 4, 2015 – Honeybee Robotics today announced it has received four NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I awards and one NASA Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I award to develop new spacecraft systems and enabling technologies. The awards will enable Honeybee to analyze concepts to advance future planetary exploration, space mining, in-situ resource utilization, and commercial spacecraft systems.
The Miniaturized System-in-Package (SiP) Motor Controller for Spacecraft and Orbital Instruments project will apply common commercial techniques to spacecraft with the goal of reducing the size and increasing the flexibility of electronic subassemblies. Using its existing full-featured motor controller, Honeybee will use SiP technology to reduce the size to approximately 10% of its original size, and reduce mass by approximately 50%. Such technology can reduce launch costs, liberate resources for additional spacecraft capabilities, and enable higher performance from small satellites.
The Hermetically Sealed Canister for Sample Return Missions project will investigate several techniques for hermetically sealing a sample return container to protect scientifically valuable samples and to avoid contaminating Earth with extraterrestrial materials. Techniques to seal in samples will include knife edges, shape memory alloys, induction brazing, and O-rings. Hermetic sealing will be important for a range of sample return missions, including from Mars, comets, or the Moon, all of which the NRC Decadal Survey have identified as primary targets for upcoming missions.
The Lunar Heat Flow Probe will help scientists understand endogenic heat flow by measuring both thermal gradient and thermal conductivity. The Lunar Heat Flow Probe contains a percussive excavation system driving a penetrometer with sensors into the lunar regolith. In addition to measuring heat flow on the Moon, the probe can be deployed on the future robotic missions to Mars, or other planetary bodies. This project builds on an alternative heat flow probe, using a pneumatic approach to penetration, already under development at Honeybee.
The Planetary Volatiles Extractor for In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) project will develop a new materials handling process for future sample analysis missions. The mobile mining and water extraction system will use a drill-based excavation approach integrated with a water extraction system to avoid the design challenges associated with traditional material transfer and processing methods. This system could be deployed as a reconnaissance tool to map and characterize volatiles distribution around an area of interest before deploying an ISRU plant, or to extract materials directly in support of human spaceflight.
The World is Not Enough (WINE): Harvesting Local Resources for Eternal Exploration of Space project, pursued in collaboration with Principal Investigator Professor Philip Metzger of the University of Central Florida, will test and investigate critical technologies to build a new generation of CubeSats that use ISRU to explore space indefinitely. The WINE technology takes advantage of existing CubeSat technology and combines it with 3D printing technology and a water extraction system. Such water extraction would enable the CubeSat to refuel with propellant for travel to another location, providing new resource prospecting capabilities for exploration missions or for private asteroid mining.