April 27, 2015 – Honeybee Robotics announced it has received two NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II awards and one NASA Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase II award for new approaches to asteroid, comet, and planetary sampling technology. The awards will enable Honeybee to further development on three novel concepts that can contribute to future planetary exploration, space mining, and in-situ resource utilization.
“Honeybee continues to advance our planetary drilling and sampling capabilities with these new and important projects,” said Kris Zacny, Vice President & Director, Exploration Technology at Honeybee Robotics. “In addition to NASA’s interest in robotic sampling technologies for the Moon, Mars, and near-Earth objects, we’re seeing growing interest from private industry to gather and process materials for space mining. We’re excited to be working at the forefront of planetary robotic exploration in support of NASA’s mission, and to benefit future space entrepreneurs as well.”
The Pyramid Comet Sampler is designed to sample comets, asteroids and other planetary bodies with a “touch-and-go” approach. Such a system could gather materials without the need to land, simplifying spacecraft architectures. Honeybee will study various configurations of sampling blades to penetrate hard materials, and characterize performance of sampling system prototypes in a range of analog materials.
The High Temperature Venus Drill and Sample Delivery System is a new approach to sampling materials from the surface of Venus. A new rotary percussive drill combined with pneumatic sample delivery has the potential to provide reliable, effective performance in the challenging 480° C, 90 atmosphere pressure environment. High-temperature motors, which Honeybee developed previously, will actuate a prototype drill in a high-temperature chamber to assess performance in conditions similar to the surface of Venus.
The Free-Flying Unmanned Robotic Spacecraft for Asteroid Resource Prospecting and Characterization, developed in collaboration with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, is an autonomous sampling gathering and return system mounted on a commercial quadcopter. Such a system will demonstrate the feasibility of autonomous sample collection for future asteroid prospecting missions.