Abstract

Extracting local resources from excavated lunar regolith will help support a sustainable presence on the Moon. For example, water ice beneath the lunar permanently shadowed region can be processed into liquid oxygen/hydrogen propellant. The availability of space acquired propellant could dramatically decrease the cost of Earth to space transportation. To address this need, this work proposes an autonomously controlled robot with trilateration-based localization for optimized excavation of lunar regolith. A proof-of-concept design for an autonomous lunar mining rover is presented. The autonomous rover is capable of traveling to known dig sites, excavating lunar regolith/water ice simulant, and transporting the lunar regolith/water ice simulant back to a collection sieve, without the need for user input. The work included phases for requirements and planning, conceptual design, detailed design, and testing for performance validation. Contributions of the proposed design include an autonomously controlled rover for excavation of lunar regolith, with design optimization to maximize the amount of successfully deposited material. The proposed design offers an optimal balance between opposing cost functions and design constraints for reducing the size and weight of the rover, while maximizing the operational performance of the rover for mining, transit, and depositing.

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