NASA Competition To Design A Bucket Drum For Moon Mining

NASA is challenging all comers to compete in the development of a bucket drum for RASSOR (Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot). Technovelgy readers may already be familiar with RASSOR (see Miners! NASA Wants To License RASSOR Excavator)


(RASSOR bucket drum challenge)

RASSOR uses counterrotating bucket drums on opposing arms to provide near-zero horizontal and minimal vertical net reaction force so that excavation is not reliant on the traction or weight of the mobility system to provide a reaction force to counteract the excavation force in low-gravity environments.

During loading, the bucket drums excavate soil/regolith by scoops mounted on the drums exteriors that sequentially take multiple cuts of soil/regolith while rotating at approximately 20 revolutions per minute. Inside the hollow drums are baffles that trap the regolith and prevent it from falling back out of the scoops. During hauling, the bucket drums are raised by rotating the arms to provide clearance above the surface being excavated. The mobility platform can then travel while the soil/regolith remains in the raised bucket drums. When the excavator reaches the dump location, the bucket drums are commanded to reverse their direction of rotation, which causes soil/regolith to be expelled out of each successive scoop.

(Via GrabCAD.)

This video does a good job of giving you all the excitement of high-stakes lunar robotic development.


( NASA's Robotic Mining Competition )

Science fiction fans have been thinking about lunar mining for generations - don't tell me you just started thinking about it! In the 1930 classic Brigands of the Moon, scientifiction writer Ray Cummings describes a lunar mining operation:

The third building seemed a lean-to banked against the cliff wall, a slanting shed-wall of glassite fifty feet high and two hundred in length. Under it, for months Grantline bores had dug into the cliff. Braced tunels were hewn penetrating back and downward into the vein of rock.

The work was over. The borers had been dismantled and packed away. At one end of the cliff the mining equipment lay piled in a ltter. There was a heap of discarded ore where Grantline had carted and dumped it after his crude refining process had yielded it as waste. The ore slag lay like gray powder flakes strewn down the cliff.
(Read more about a 1930's lunar mining operation)

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