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Design and preliminary testing of a low-energy planetary excavator

Transactions of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration , 2010, Vol. 328, No. 1, pp. 373-380

Rostami, J.; Gertsch, L.; Gustafson, R.; Swpe, C.


Development of a permanent human base on the moon for exploration requires a self-sustaining system. Such a system entails the production and processing of limited amounts of raw material on the moon. Any mining and construction activities on the moon can only be performed by a robust excavation machine that can excavate a variety of material, from loose surface regolith to consolidated (frozen) regolith with embedded rocks in the mixture. Meanwhile, a limited amount of information on lunar regolith is available to develop and optimize a machine for lunar ground conditions. Therefore, any excavator designed for use on the lunar surface should have the ability to adapt to a wide range of operating conditions. A prototype cutterhead for the lunar excavator was built and tested at the Kennametal facility in Latrobe, PA. This paper discusses the results of initial material characterization, as well as full-scale tests of a prototype cutterhead in relevant material. A brief review of anticipated production rates under various assumed ground conditions is also presented.