Honeybee Robotics Secures Two NASA Awards for Asteroid Redirect Mission

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Projects will advance SHOTGUN probes for an Asteroid Redirect Vehicle and an Astronaut-deployable NanoDrill coring drill

Honeybee Robotics Spacecraft Mechanisms Corporation today announced it has received two NASA awards as part of the Agency’s Asteroid Redirect MissionTwo Honeybee concepts, the SHOTGUN probes for an Asteroid Redirect Vehicle and an Astronaut-deployable NanoDrill coring drill, will be developed to assess scientific value and technical feasibility as part of the program. These awards, building on Phase I development undertaken in 2013 and SBIR-supported research, fund both technical analysis and development of prototypes to prepare for future planetary and comet sampling missions.

Under NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, a robotic spacecraft would capture a small near-Earth asteroid, or remove a boulder from the surface of a larger asteroid, and redirect the object into a stable orbit around the moon. Astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft would rendezvous with the asteroid mass in lunar orbit, and collect samples for return to Earth. This program is a key part of the agency’s stepping stone path to send humans to Mars.

“Collecting and characterizing samples from asteroids is an important science goal in itself, and NASA has identified it as a key step toward human exploration of Mars,” said Kris Zacny, Vice President & Director, Exploration Technology at Honeybee Robotics. “Honeybee has a heritage developing planetary sample collection and processing technologies for NASA, including both robotic and handheld tools. We are very excited to be part of the community working to develop new systems for a program as important as the Asteroid Redirect Mission.”

Honeybee’s SHOTGUN impactor is a kinetic impactor payload consisting of a deployed penetrometer and accelerometers. Deployed at low velocity from the Asteroid Retrieval Vehicle, the probe can accurately measure soil strength and characterize asteroid regolith. A key part of this phase of research will explore miniaturizing the SHOTGUN impactor to enable multiple systems to be deployed and tracked by LIDAR.

Honeybee’s NanoDrill and Caching System study will develop concepts for drilling tools and sample caching systems that could be used by astronauts during a spacewalk on the asteroid. This project uses a handheld coring tool based on prior Honeybee designs, and would enable astronauts to capture and hermetically seal asteroid samples with a handheld tool.

Honeybee has over two decades of experience developing planetary sampling and processing systems. More information on the company’s sector expertise is available on its planetary technology page, or view a select portfolio of planetary drilling and sampling systems.