NASA SBIR 2015 Solicitation

FORM B - PROPOSAL SUMMARY


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 15-1 H1.01-9564
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Regolith ISRU for Mission Consumable Production
PROPOSAL TITLE: Small Body Regolith Extraction System

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Grainflow Dynamics, Inc.
1141 Catalina Drive, PMB 270
Livermore, CA 94550 - 5928
(925) 447-4293

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Otis Walton
walton@grainflow.com
1141 Catalina Drive, PMB 270
Livermore, CA 94550 - 5928
(925) 447-4293

CORPORATE/BUSINESS OFFICIAL (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Otis Walton
walton@grainflow.com
1141 Catalina Drive, PMB 270
Livermore, CA 94550 - 5928
(925) 447-4293

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 2
End: 3

Technology Available (TAV) Subtopics
Regolith ISRU for Mission Consumable Production is a Technology Available (TAV) subtopic that includes NASA Intellectual Property (IP). Do you plan to use the NASA IP under the award?
No

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
This project will develop a specialized flexible microgravity subsurface drilling and regolith extraction system which could extract significant quantities of regolith from depths between 1m and 3m below the surface through a small (~2.6cm diameter) entrance drill hole. Such a drill system could selectively extract just the fine-fraction of regolith from depths which have not been exposed to significant space-weathering (e.g. by utilizing its unique oversize-particle-rejecting drill-head feeder). The flexible drill system could be utilized to create horizontal wells for direct insitu extraction of volatiles on the moon, for instance, without removing the bulk of the regolith (e.g. see Walton et al 2014a, b) or it could excavate subsurface volumes of regolith of the order of 0.5m3 through a single small entrance hole, for small body applications. If the near-surface regolith on a small body is primarily comprised of small particulates, with say at least 70% by mass being particles smaller than 2mm, then such a system could create a subsurface excavation on the order of 0.3m3 to 0.4m3 during a sunlit operating time duration of less than 100hrs (assuming the bulk density of the regolith is on the order of 1g/cc). Microgravity capable storage and transfer vessels and conveying lines (demonstrated in previous phase-1 SBIR projects, Walton et al 2012; 2014) could be utilized to store, dispense, or transfer the material in continuous or batch modes to other equipment for processing (i.e., the microgravity storage vessels could act as a buffer volume to provide a uniform rate of delivery for a continuous process, or they could dispense material in batches, as needed). The entire regolith extraction system is enclosed with minimal loss of volatiles and no extraneous debris after initiation of the drill-hole.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Subsurface access, material extraction, transport and storage are important for fulfillment of both Science and Exploration mission goals. Microgravity material handling is significantly different than our terrestrial engineering, mining and material-processing experience. The material handling equipment and components developed under this project resembles some terrestrial drilling, and material-transport, storage and handling equipment, but also offer significant improvements in both function and robustness for microgravity applications over more conventional drilling or excavation approaches. These new tools could facilitate development of robust ISRU processing operations under microgravity. Access to unweathered subsurface material is crucial for evaluation of both the origin of a body and for extraction of resources. The ability of extract a significant quantity of subsurface material without exposure to the space environment and without the addition of any diluting gases offers a significant benefit over alternatives that have been proposed. In addition to the prototype regolith extraction and handling equipment, the simulation tools developed and calibrated for predicting their performance, could also be utilized by NASA programs designing future microgravity missions.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Deep Space Industries, Shackleton Energy, and Planetary Resources are three of the relatively new commercial entities planning to make use of extraterrestrial resources. These entities and others seeking to utilize resources on small solar system bodies could benefit from the tools being developed here. The drill-head feeder developed here also overcomes a well-known problem with conventional vertical screw conveying, namely, that the vortex or swirl-action of the material near the entrance to a screw conveyor can prevent material from entering the conveyor, often causing vertical screw-conveyors to operate in a 'feed-starved' mode unless they are 'force-fed'. The feeder/drill-head design developed here accomplishes the function of force-feeding the attached screw-augers so that they are not feed-starved. Eight out of ten suppliers of large industrial conveying equipment which includes vertical screw conveyors, only offer them with separately powered horizontal screw conveyor-feeders, to supply material to a force-fed transfer point where the vertical screw conveyor picks up the material fed into it, and elevates it. The other two suppliers of large vertical screw-like conveyors (Olds Elevator and Siwertell) both utilize rotating scoops at the bottom of their vertical conveyors to gather material and force it into the vertical conveying pipe. The drill-head feeders developed here could greatly simplify feeding of vertical screw conveyors and improve their performance.

TECHNOLOGY TAXONOMY MAPPING (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.)
Resource Extraction

Form Generated on 04-23-15 15:37