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A percussive digging system has been demonstrated to decrease the amount of downforce needed to penetrate a given soil, thus reducing the required reaction loads and robot mass. Preliminary testing of a percussive digging system in compacted lunar regolith simulant, JSC-1A, has demonstrated a 15x (fifteen times) reduction in the downforce necessary to penetrate the regolith, Downforce reductions of this magnitude are sufficient to enable robotic exploration system architectures that would not otherwise be feasible. Excavation using a shovel or scoop bas applications in robotic exploration of planetary or lunar bodies, outpost construction, and In Situ Resource Utilization applications. This depends upon the availability of substantial reaction loads for penetrating and breaking up target soil/regolith. These reaction loads are provided through the strength of the robotic digging arm and the weight of the rover/lander body. Large loads require increased mass and strength for the digging arm and rover/lander body, moreso for low-gravity environments such as the Moon or Mars. Increased digging capability requires increased mass; conversely, decreased mass limits digging capability.
Date of Publication: Oct. 2010