To enable future Lunar ISRU missions to more effectively explore, sample, and excavate within the permanently shaded polar craters, Tethers Unlimited Inc. (TUI) proposes to develop the Sensing and Positioning In Deep Environments with Retrieval (SPIDER) System. The SPIDER concept is an innovative exploration architecture that shatters the mold of traditional wheeled, legged, or propulsive hopper vehicles. Instead, SPIDER utilizes launchable tethered anchors and on-board winches to perform landing, mobility, and sampling operations while suspended over the crater of interest. The concept is akin to the “skycams” used in sports arenas, and it eliminates several major concerns with ground-based rovers, including: 1) entrapment, 2) overturning, 3) contamination of the sample site, and 4) lunar dust in the mechanisms.
In the Phase I effort, TUI will perform concept development, design, and engineering of the launchable tethered anchoring system and accompanying winch sized for a specific lunar crater and to accommodate an ISRU payload to be agreed upon with the sponsor. At the end of the Phase I the SPIDER technology will be at TRL 4. Prototyping and testing of the integrated system will be performed in the Phase II effort, establishing the design at TRL 6.
The SPIDER System directly addresses NASA 2015 Space Technology Roadmap TA4.2.1 for Extreme Terrain Mobility, TA4.2.3 for Above Surface Mobility, TA 4.2.8 for Mobility Components, and TA7.1.2 for In-Situ Resource Utilization. The SPIDER technologies can be customized to enable greater mobility for Lunar Exploration, Mars Rovers, Venus and Titan aerobots, and Astronaut EVAs on planetary surfaces.
SPIDER systems can support resource exploration and development by ventures such as Blue Origin, Astrobotic, Moon Express, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing. The SPIDER concepts could enable wrangling of asteroids or excavating resources from Martian valleys and cliff faces. Terrestrial applications include launchable anchoring systems for the DoD, FEMA, and Search and Rescue organizations.