Our Contribution to the NASA RASSOR Bucket Drum Design Challenge

Stephan Weißenböck, Eric Fimbinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


NASA’s Artemis program aims to return humans to the Moon sustainably and efficiently by using new and improved technology, which is based on the concept of generating products with local materials, a practice called In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU). Regolith excavation is the fundamental step in the ISRU chain to produce local commodities, such as propellants and breathing air, and to pursue construction operations. NASA is currently working on the Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot (RASSOR), the key technology to enable extraterrestrial mining. The robot uses counterrotating bucket drums that capture regolith and keep it from falling out. NASA reached out to the public via GrabCAD to improve the robot’s design and chose five concepts, which will be tested and further improved. A team of three students from the University of Leoben (Dominik Höber, Andreas Taschner, and Stephan Weißenböck) took part in the challenge set by NASA and shared their ideas and concepts. They used this opportunity to implement their acquired knowledge from their studies and were also supported by a researcher from the Chair of Mining Engineering of the University of Leoben—Eric Fimbinger. The final design consists of three significant elements that were fused to increase efficiency: An outer helix, a spiral tunnel, and an inner helix. These three important components make up the concept which impressed the jury and reached fourth place out of approx. 350 entries. Due to the success of the project as well as the aroused interest amongst the students, further research projects were initialised as follow-ups, dealing with the topic of extraterrestrial mining. One is a research and development study covered by two master’s theses about excavation and conveying concepts on the Moon (see the article by Höber, Taschner and Fimbinger in this issue). The other one is in the form of a bachelor’s thesis to compare and analyse chosen concepts from the design challenge in a numerical simulation environment with equal conditions to allow virtual testing of those chosen designs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-111
Number of pages8
JournalBerg- und hüttenmännische Monatshefte : BHM
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2021

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