NASA SBIR 2006 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 06-2 X7.03-8448
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Surface Handling and Mobility, Transportation, and Operations Equipment (Lunar or Mars)
PROPOSAL TITLE: Lunar All-Terrain Utility Vehicle for EVA

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
ProtoInnovations, LLC
1908 Shaw Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15217 - 1710
(412) 916-8807

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Stuart Heys
1908 Shaw Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15217 - 1710
(773) 412-3081

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
ProtoInnovations, LLC proposes to develop a new type of planetary rover called a Lunar All-terrain Utility Vehicle ("LATUV") to assist extra-vehicular activities in future lunar missions. The vehicle will operate unmanned or with an astronaut driving onboard. It will have a roughly 4 m2 footprint and be able to about twice as fast as an astronaut can walk on the Moon. The vehicle will feature four-wheel, all-terrain mobility with traction control. A multi-purpose tool interface and interchangeable cargo bays will support a variety of mission payloads. The LATUV will be used for mission such as site preparation, emplacing beacons, equipment and commodity distribution, and sampling. Our phase I work showed the feasibility of a new, high-efficiency, high duty, lunar-relevant traction drive system; a simplified steer / suspension chassis capable of handling 2 m/s speeds in lunar gravity; interchangeable utility modules for earthmoving, sampling, emplacing, etc.; and traction control software for earthmoving tasks as well as slope- and obstacle-climbing. In Phase II we will produce a terrestrial LATUV prototype with two rocker modules and two central modules designed for earthmoving the emplacing beacons. ProtoInnovations brings an impressive amount of experience to the task of designing the LATUV. Two of our robots built for NASA Ames, dubbed K10red and K10black, are operating in the high Canadian arctic. Working at Carnegie Mellon University, members of our team have developed robots to operate in some of the harshest environments on Earth: surveying Antarctic ice fields, traversing the Atacama Desert, and exploring into an Alaskan volcano. In total, our robots have traveled roughly 500 km through some of the most difficult terrain on Earth. We've accomplished these tasks by building robots that are, above all else, controllable and reliable. Our team has experience building all of the subsystems involved in this project.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Innovations exhibited by the LATUV, such as traction control, a quick-disconnect tool interface, and those yet unrealized, will certainly be applicable to commercial markets beyond the lunar program. A scaled-down LATUV chassis would provide benefits for explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) robots similar to Foster-Miller's TALON. The flexible interface between the LATUV rockers and central modules makes the low-cost rockers line-replaceable units (LRUs) that could be very easily swapped out in the field. Maintaining field inventories of EOD robots would be much easier when parts are universally interchangeable. Repair tasks would also be much easier since no special tools or skills would be required. Our drivetrain and chassis design will also benefit terrestrial UGVs operating at speeds of several meters per second. It is a more efficient alternative to tracked vehicles such as the Foster-Miller TALON that are used extensively by the military and police departments. Our design features will extend battery life while maintaining a good mobility performance.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
ProtoInnovations will vigorously push our LATUV technology into NASA's manned and unmanned lunar exploration program. This will require close interaction with the customer. We will foster this by making the vehicle available for testing wherever possible. With our rapid and iterative approach to development and the flexible design of the LATUV, we will adapt as NASA's lunar exploration program continues. The LATUV also represents a new class of space robotics research rover: larger, faster, and more capable than K9 and K10 with a high payload capacity. We'll partner with NASA research groups to make the LATUV terrestrial prototype available for this kind of field testing, in particular building on our partnership with NASA Ames IRG formed while building the K10 rovers. We hope that adoption of the LATUV by NASA will provide ProtoInnovations with a sustainable R&D effort until the LATUV design gains a high TRL level and is infused into the lunar exploration program.

NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.

Integrated Robotic Concepts and Systems

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