In the Authorization Act of 2010, NASA outlined a goal to permanently expand human existence beyond low Earth orbit as well as lower the costs and complexities associated with it. Since then, the NASA sponsored Robotic Mining Competition (RMC) has encouraged university students from around the world to develop extraterrestrial mining systems capable of implementing in situ resource utilization (ISRU) to reduce the difficulty of human expansion into space by mining resources off Earth. These mining systems must traverse obstacle-laden terrain, excavate, and deposit resources. Commonly developed systems employ a single device which completes each of the three aforementioned functions in series. To more effectively meet the needs of an ISRU operation, a commercial mining approach was applied to the competition to mirror the most efficient mining operations on Earth. The Multi-device Autonomous Robotic System (MARS) approach uses an excavator specialized in collecting resources from the surface and a transport specialized in terrain traversal and payload handling. With two specialized devices, the functions will be in parallel. The MARS is expected to demonstrate an increase in the volume of acquired resources over a long period of time relative to single-device systems. To overcome the in-feasibility of real-time communication between Earth and Mars, the system will feature an autonomous control system based on a state machine architecture and will utilize computer vision to track its location, detect obstacles, and dock with other devices.
Approach from previous competitions: One Device Operation
Our Approach: Two Device Operation
Intended System Performance