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ISRU Pilot Excavator - Development of Autonomous Excavation AlgorithmsThe ISRU Pilot Excavator (IPEx) is a Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) Game Changing Development (GCD) project to develop a robotic excavator to demonstrate excavation of up to 10 metric tons of lunar regolith. IPEx is based on the Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot (RASSOR) excavator developed at NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and utilizes a counter rotating bucket drum concept to balance excavation forces for use on reduced gravity planetary bodies. To take advantage of the counter rotating bucket drum mechanism, work is being done to develop new autonomous excavation strategies and algorithms. Referred to as “Auto-dig”, these algorithms will allow IPEx to excavate, drive, and deliver its target mass of 10 metric tons of lunar regolith during an 11-day mission semi-autonomously. Due to bandwidth and latency constraints teleoperation will be kept to a minimum, with operators periodically confirming and verifying the excavator’s high-level tasks and operations. While the work to develop optimized autodig solutions is ongoing at KSC, early tests have yielded interesting results that have led to the discovery of additional risks that need to be mitigated in autonomous excavation. Testing has also encouraged the development of new software and visualization tools that provide real-time insight into excavation loads during operation, allowing faster development and helping build better intuition to the excavation process. These tools will help in the pursuit to develop fully optimized digging algorithms that are robust enough to handle hazards such as rocks or irregular terrain.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
B. C. Buckles
(Kennedy Space Center Merritt Island, Florida, United States)
J. M. Schuler
(Kennedy Space Center Merritt Island, Florida, United States)
A. J. Nick
(Kennedy Space Center Merritt Island, Florida, United States)
J. D. Smith
(Kennedy Space Center Merritt Island, Florida, United States)
T. J. Muller
(Kennedy Space Center Merritt Island, Florida, United States)
Date Acquired
March 31, 2022
Subject Category
Mechanical Engineering
Meeting Information
Meeting: Space Resources Roundtable, XXII Meeting
Location: Golden, Colorado
Country: US
Start Date: June 7, 2022
End Date: June 10, 2022
Sponsors: Colorado School of Mines, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Honeybee Robotics (United States), Advanced Space
Funding Number(s)
WBS: 596118.04.65.76
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
Technical Review
NASA Peer Committee
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