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NASA Asks For Help to Build Lunar Digging Robot

David Paul



The company has asked people to suggest ideas to improve the design of its Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot (RASSOR).

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has put out a call for help in designing a component for a robot to dig on the moon.

Regolith excavation, or the moving of the top layer of material on the moon’s surface, will be useful in future space missions for In Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU) to make local commodities, such as propellants and breathing air, and to pursue construction operations.

NASA’s ‘RASSOR Bucket Drum Design Challenge’, sponsored by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), seeks a better shape for RASSOR’s bucket drum and baffling, or sheet metal inside of it that can capture and hold more material.

NASA’s hope is to find a 3D model design that can hold up to 50% capacity of material in its bucket before having to be unloaded, increasing the amount that can be moved in every attempt.

Engineers have been testing various configurations of the moon-digging robot RASSOR in a large lunar simulant sand box at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Now, NASA is asking the public to help design a new bucket drum, the portion of the robot that captures the surface material (regolith) on the moon and keeps it from falling out. The material can then be transported to a designated location where it can then be tipped out.

GrabCAD, a website that allows people to post 3D models, is hosting the challenge, and individuals with an idea can submit original designs.


Jason Schuler, a robotics engineer in the Exploration Research and Technology Programmes at Kennedy, said: “We’ve held challenges on GrabCAD in the past and they were very successful.

“As a repository for computer-aided design, the platform helps us reach professional designers, engineers, manufacturers and students outside of the space industry who may have an idea that could benefit NASA.”

NASA’s ‘RASSOR Bucket Drum Design Challenge’ is open through April 20, 2020. Visit the GrabCAD website to get involved in the project

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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