Solid dish antennas are a widespread technology nowadays, employed in many communication systems. Despite this, the mass and volume of this type of antenna are sometimes not compatible with the characteristics of space systems and their operating environment. This prevents their use in many more applications in which, actually, solid dish antennas could be very useful. Deployable antenna structures seem to offer a promising solution to this problem by combining an optimized structure with the same features of a solid dish. This paper presents a new design for a parabolic reflector, able to extend its surface through a radial opening, umbrella-like mechanism. The light structure and the compact initial configuration of the reflector make this device a great option for those applications in which the physical constraints are a particular issue. The deployment is initiated by a single actuation system which releases the arms, making the reflector to expand its surface by nine times, compared to the stowed configuration. Furthermore, this design is characterized by an innovative system that exploits a central fixed parabola. This guarantees operativeness also in the event of unexpected behavior of the deployment system, overcoming the need for other antennas for redundancy, otherwise required to assure that the correct functionality of the system is not compromised. This kind of technology could be used, for instance, to implement an aerial stratospheric telecommunication system, composed of high-data-rate microwave radio link, or for interception of communications and radar signals, for military and intelligence, for Earth observation in low and midrange-frequency radar, deep space observation and remote sensing. This paper presents a detailed 3D prototype design and experimental test results. In addition, the major reliability parameters of parabolic reflectors, namely surface accuracy, stiffness of the dish and deployment actuation, will be analyzed and discussed in order to highlight their potentialities for future space and planetary missions. The potential of this new concept was recognized by SNSB/DLR/ESA who selected it for a flight experiment on its REXUS/BEXUS project.
Solid dish antennas are a widespread technology nowadays, employed in many communication systems. Despite this, the mass and volume of this type of antenna are sometimes not compatible with the characteristics of space systems and their operating environment. This prevents their use in many more applications in which, actually, solid dish antennas could be very useful. Deployable antenna structures seem to offer a promising solution to this problem by combining an optimized structure with the same features of a solid dish. This paper presents a new design for a parabolic reflector that extends its surface through a radial opening, umbrella-like mechanism. The light structure and the compact initial configuration of the reflector make this device a great option for those applications in which the physical constraints are a particular issue. The deployment is initiated by a single actuation system which releases the arms, making the reflector to expand its surface by nine times, compared to the stowed configuration. Furthermore, this design is characterized by an innovative system that exploits a central fixed parabola on the launch configuration. This guarantees operativeness also in the event of unexpected behaviour of the deployment system, overcoming the need for other antennas for redundancy, otherwise required to assure that the correct functionality of the system is not compromised. This kind of technology could be used, for instance, to implement an aerial stratospheric telecommunication system composed of high-data-rate microwave radio link, for interception of communications and radar signals, for military and intelligence, Earth observation in low and midrange-frequency radar, deep space observation and remote sensing. DREX flew on BEXUS24 balloon, in the framework of the REXUS/BEXUS programme. The flight took place from the ESRANGE Space Center on October 18th, 2017. This paper presents a detailed 3D prototype design, deployment simulation and experimental test results obtained during the flight.
Aerial drones have the potential to revolution planetary exploration, as they can travel higher and faster than rovers but still allowing high-resolution sensing. In recent years, the possibility of using aerial vehicles on Mars went from concept to operations: Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous rotorcraft developed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, scheduled to be launched in 2020, will demonstrate the viability of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Martian surface. Due to the delay of transmission, teleoperated flight from Earth seems unlikely; nevertheless, in a scenario where crew is settled on the Martian surface (or in orbit), aerial drones could become a key element of the mission. Analogue missions have proved to be an effective way to simulate human activities during space exploration missions. Due to crew isolation in a setting similar to the extreme environments of space, they allow for testing of both hardware and operational scenarios. The research project VESTA brought these two subjects together, evaluating possible uses for drones in a human settlement during a two-week experimentation at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS). Operational complexity and utility for the crew were analysed, with regard to safety, crew time and training. A multicopter was used during Extra-Vehicular Activities (EVAs) and piloting of the vehicle from inside the station was evaluated. Because of the current absence of a global positioning system on Mars, possible alternative navigation technologies were considered. In this case, due to potential safety issues, flight operations were performed using Earth Global Positioning System (GPS); further studies are therefore required to investigate autonomous navigation on Mars. Two different scenarios were evaluated: environment monitoring and settlement inspection. In the first, the drone was flying at high altitude to acquire a general understanding of the outside environment, and as a possible warning weathercast system for sandstorms, a common event in martian environment. For inspection missions, the drone pointed its cameras and sensors at the station and navigated autonomously to specific points of interest on the MDRS facilities, allowing the crew to inspect the external elements, e.g. the solar array, where the level of dust coverage were assessed. The main results from these evaluations were a set of operational scenarios and lessons learned that could be further extrapolated to real off-Earth conditions in future human exploration missions.
The inherent risk in human space operations has restrained the application and development of automation and AI, in contrast to unmanned missions, where autonomous protocols are widely employed, proving to be essential for accomplishing mission objectives. As ventures in human space exploration advances in complexity, technologies in robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence (AI) become a fundamental capability to achieve safer and more economically feasible missions. So far, automated robots have been used mainly in serial, repetitive tasks, and since they are typically designed at the very early phases of the mission, this obscures their adaptability to future deviations from original mission requirements. This adaptability is especially crucial during mission operations when unexpected issues are not only common but inevitable. Even with additional AI capabilities in robotic systems, its benefits only depend on hardware limitations. Traditionally, the crew has been in charge of responding to unexpected problems during the mission. The assumption that the crew will have all the necessary tools to resolve unpredicted problems in space can put the crew and valuable assets at risk. This paper outlines a concept of scalable infrastructure and methodology for standardization and optimization of mission hardware and software. It also presents a possible behavioral model for decision-making protocols of autonomous framework in the context of human spaceflight. This model describes a new approach in applications of automated systems and AI. The intent is to increase crew efficiency, thereby reduce psychological load and training time, lower the risks and costs of the mission while providing an efficient and sustainable approach to space operations.
The current standard for human-system integration in space hardware development makes use of high fidelity mockups to test operational scenarios and human interactions. This process is iterated at different scales and development stages and it usually requires the use of great resources and implementation time. Immersive technologies can help mitigate this problem by minimizing the dependency on physical prototyping of assets and help condense the iterative evaluation/implementation process optimizing the transition from CAD modeling to human-in-the-loop testing. In this paper we propose a framework for human-system integration testing of space hardware using immersive technologies. The proposal makes large use of Components Off the Shelves (COTS) to ease the R&D time, such as Virtual Reality (VR) headsets and sensors. VR trackers are a viable option to reduce the gap between digital assets development and low fidelity mock-up production, enabling that same level of interaction usually reserved for physical models and the immersion typical of Virtual Reality. We will use the Multi-mission Extra-Vehicular Robot (MMEVR), developed at SICSA as a case study for the proposed framework application. Design-derived tasks are to be performed using the MMEVR low fidelity mockup, built at the University of Houston, in conjunction with VR trackers and a VR Headset. Currently, no standard could be identified for optimized VR testing in space applications and this paper aims to lay down initial guidelines for development of such a standard. We will use the Task Load Index by NASA (TLX) to assess the task workload and the System Usability Scale (SUS) to study the usability of the immersive technology system for these applications.
In Project Olympus, ICON and SEArch+ have developed design schematics for critical surface infrastructure necessary for a permanent lunar base. In 2020 ICON was awarded an SBIR contribution from Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) to contribute to NASA Marshall’s Moon-to-Mars Planetary Autonomous Construction Technologies (MMPACT) initiative. ICON will first demonstrate additive manufacturing capabilities for horizontal structures such as roads and landing pads, followed by demonstrations of vertical structures, including unpressurized radiation shelters as well as habitats. In 2020, ICON employed SEArch+ to develop design schematics for mission-critical surface construction elements for a lunar settlement, including concepts for surface-site deployment, construction sequencing, and structural design. The design process was informed by discussions with key ICON engineers and NASA collaborators. The exchange not only ensured the constructibility of designs according to hardware and material processing limitations, but also enabled the architectural process to influence and shape hardware requirements as they were being defined. The ensuing habitat design, titled the “Lunar Lantern” for its double-protective outer shield structure, celebrates and promotes a design approach driven by human factors principles to ensure the safety and security of future crew. As a whole, Project Olympus envisions the construction of durable, self-maintaining, and resilient surface structures enabled by advanced 3D-printing technologies.
Utilization of in Situ resources is a fundamental capability to be developed for the construction of permanent and semi-permanent structures on Mars and the Moon. Nevertheless, direct human contact with regolith would jeopardize crew health. New design strategies that address such problems need to be explored and developed. This paper presents a feasible design for a hybrid class 2 / class 3 outpost that includes ISRU structures integrated with prefabricated inflatable and solid elements, both for pressurized and infrastructure elements. The Architectural Design Thesis Laboratory of the Polytechnic University of Bari conducted research on this topic, and, under the name of archi.mars, the group designed a permanent and self-sufficient settlement: “HiveMars”. The proposal explores a concept for the integration of ISRU-enabled and prefabricated structures to create a scalable infrastructure capable of supporting human life on the surface. To reduce mission costs and launch load from Earth, eight different automated rovers will prepare the site area before the crew’s arrival. Following the site exploration phase (identified in the Hellas Planitia, in the martian southern hemisphere) the automated surface assets will proceed with the material collection, processing, and construction of the main infrastructures, including Landing pads and roads. The first habitat nucleus is composed of three self-supporting, interconnected domes, built with Martian regolith using additive manufacturing, and outfitted with an inflatable, pressurized core that hosts the pre-integrated ECLSS systems and the internal infrastructure. A pre-integrated dome on the top of the prefabricated core ensures the right amount of natural light while protecting the internal habitat from radiations and micro-meteoroid impacts.
A six-month lunar surface systems study sponsored by The Boeing Company was conducted by the students and faculty of Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture of the University of Houston during the 2020-2021 academic year. This paper presents the results of the study and outlines the next steps for developing a comprehensive research plan for lunar infrastructure construction. The work presented in this paper aimed to develop conceptual design options for Lunar Terrain Vehicle (Rover) and Small Lunar Habitat. For rover design development, three rover cargo transfer operations scenarios were investigated: 1. minimum; 2. medium; and 3. maximum automation. For each of the autonomous rover cargo transfer scenarios, the study provided recommendations on types of required robotic capabilities and identified design implications for robotic manipulation of the cargo and airlock. The evaluation and analysis of the rover’s optimal capabilities influenced the set of requirements for designing a Small Lunar Habitat that had to be designed for use in late 2020 and to be located at the lunar South Pole. The habitat design aimed to be lander agnostic with an approximate 12m3 volume optimized for the crew of four during a two-week mission. The applied design evaluation strategy included using a physical, mixed reality, or virtual mockup of the habitat, simulating crew activities inside the habitat and/or its segments. The paper presents the results of the simulations and design analysis. Various personal, science, industrial, and exploration activities interactions suggested as evaluation criteria for the development of design recommendations on the habitat layout. Limitations of the design evaluation approach using simulations in 1g environment were also identified and recognized. The design of both elements, the rover and habitat, considered them as a system that evolutionary meant to become a part of an overall Lunar Surface Systems Infrastructure. The goal of the study was to provide design concepts and their comprehensive evaluations. They derived from the design and development recommendations based on space architecture strategy of designing all surface elements interconnected with each other’s capabilities, satisfying cross-elements requirements and interfaces compatibility, aiming for evolutionary growth of surface capabilities into a large-scale sustainable infrastructure.
This paper presents a concept for an unpressurized Lunar Rover, called the Modular Utility Vehicle (MUV), as a feasible design for a modular, upgradeable, telerobotically operated and manned rover for navigating the Lunar South Pole. Designed for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) Competition, its capabilities include payload deployment, water-ice sample collection, geologic analysis, and terrain mapping. The defining aspect of this modular approach allows for future mission requirements and objectives to be met. The modular aspects of the vehicle allow it to perform multiple tasks at once, either as a singular unified vehicle, or to be broken into smaller components and used singularly or as a swarm. This allows significant flexibility of vehicle management and the eventual deployment of habitation and scientific structures on the Lunar surface. Modularity also increases redundancy, and adds options for mitigating vehicle damage, failed components, or emergency return to the lander. The basic vehicle design is made up of a single chassis. The chassis has an outfitted mass of approximately 150kg and can support 30x its own weight. Nominally operated in pairs of two, each chassis provides two payload bays, two utility bays, 1.6kWh of batteries, computers, keep alive functions, communications, and four external connections to mate-up with more chassis, drive mechanisms, or robotic manipulators. Payload bays provide the vehicles’ primary interface though the installation of human drive controls, science packages, or capability expansions such as extra batteries to help it to survive the 14-day long Lunar nights. The vehicle has a minimum range of 20km, assuming no assuming no solar power availability to recharge the batteries. Actual range is estimated to be between 47km and 100km depending on lighting conditions and use. The general operational concept of the vehicle allows crews on Earth or the Lunar Gateway to perform tedious and potentially dangerous terrain mapping in preparation to receive a crew on the Lunar surface. The rover identifies areas of interest that human crews will later examine for samples and water-ice collection for eventual return to Earth. Once the crew arrives they will reconfigure the rover to operate as a human surface transportation system. Crews, both on and off the Lunar surface, will be aided in Navigation by LIDAR, terrain mapping, auto-drive features, and augmented reality. Most technologies are at a readiness level 9, and many have a flight-proven history. No significant advancements in technology must be made for the feasibility of the design. the MUV , is a feasible design for a modular, upgradeable, telerobotically operated and manned rover for navigating the Lunar South Pole. Its capabilities include payload deployment, water-ice sample collection, geologic analysis, and terrain mapping. The defining aspect of this modular approach allows for future mission requirements and objectives to be met. The large use of COTS in the concept is one of the main design drivers.
EVA operations are currently the highest-risk task actually performed by humans in space and at the same time one of the most useful assets in human space missions. Despite the growing need for enhancement of EVA capabilities, the EVA technologies, such as spacesuits, stayed almost unaltered for more than 40 years, while new concepts are currently developed (xEMU). MMEVR (Multi-Mission Extra Vehicular Robot) is a proposed design for a multipurpose EVA robot with high dexterity and mobility, which purpose is to collaborate with humans in Extra-Vehicular, in-space Operations and highly repetitive tasks. This paper presents the outcomes of the first year of research, including the Concept of operations, a preliminary design concept, and considerations on the technological integration between different off-the-shelves components. The use of COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) components is a main design driver for the whole system, as well as the integration level between exsisting space infrastructures and mission architectures such as the ARTEMIS program and the Lunar Gateway. MMEVR presents a new modular architecture that allows astronauts to configure the robot to follow specific mission requirements. The robot provide 2 to 4 additional robotic limbs and a navigation unit to perform autonomous tasks or collaborate with human crews during EVAs. The robot mobility is based on the joint use of RCSs (Reaction Control System) and CMGs (Control-Movement Gysroscope). MMVR can be operated in 3 different control modes: Autonomous, teleoperated or robotic augmentation for EVA suits. The design concept include an ISPR (International Standard Payload Rack)-integrated control module for teleoperated scenarios and a standard docking interface with space assets such as orbital and deep space modules or spacecrafts. MMEVR incorporates the lessons learned from the MMU, Safer, Robonaut, DEXTRE, and other space robotic assets to achieve unprecedented flexibility for the future generation of In-Space operations.
Architecture is often formalized as the discipline that enables the transformation of natural spaces into a livable and comfortable environment. This meaning of architecture even became how we sometimes evaluate the achievements of past civilizations: the Parthenon and Giza pyramids are perpetual landmarks that outlived the cultures that built them, and they still stand today as a manifesto of their creators’ achievements. Since the neolithic era, humans used architecture as a means to expand and colonize territories at every latitude, transforming inhospitable environments into habitable ones. Today, we inhabit every corner of our planet and beyond: Antarctica hosts more than 4000 researchers every year in more than 70 different research bases. We also have been continuously occupying the Low Earth Orbit since 2001, thanks to the International Space Station. The boundaries of architecture are expanding rapidly, and soon we will start building on the surface of other planets, like the Moon and Mars. Extraterrestrial human outposts are now part of near term programs of many space agencies and not just visions used in science fiction literature and movies. To build in such an alien environment as space and other planets, we need to rethink some architectural rules, starting from the basic human needs because in space survivability and safety became the main tasks that architects need to address. As neolithic men and women before, Space Architects need to relearn how to use in situ materials and to deal with environmental threats of space, developing new construction methods and architectural layouts that are compatible with many safety constraints. Astronauts also have to deal with an unprecedented level of physical and mental stress, isolation, and disorientation, similar to how antarctic explorers and oil rig operators do on earth. The architecture of an habitat should integrate psychological countermeasures along with the latest biosensors and virtual reality technologies to lessen the negative effects of isolation and confinement on human productivity and livelihood. Space Architecture ideas emerged together with visions of the human future in space envisioned by NASA and the USSR space program in the `60s, way before the technology level could enable such exploration. Architecture is still influencing the direction of built environment development for long-stay missions. Current applications of additive manufacturing in large scale construction and automation processes for architecture on Earth are influencing mission planning for the next generation of space habitats, as well as utilization of traditional architectural concepts such as stereotomy. We are on the verge of a new era for architecture that will require a robust multidisciplinary approach to deal with the challenges of implementing unprecedented innovations in unforeseen scenarios. Space Architecture discipline is not only a crucial player for enabling these developments to ensure human multi-planetary future but also for achieving more sustainable construction practices on the planet Earth.