FIGURE 1. The RASSOR robot climbs a hill during recent
testing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
FIGURE 2. With a pair of drums positioned on the arms,
the RASSOR can take on a number of different shapes to
accomplish its work.
year at the Kennedy Space Center (as reported in
SERVO), Embry Riddle’s Prescott team demonstrated
the “bucket drum” technique successfully in this
The RASSOR looks like a small tank chassis with a
drum at either end, each attached with arms. The
drums are perhaps the robot’s most innovative
feature. Because they are mounted on moving arms,
they can act almost as legs letting the robot step and
climb over obstacles. The team calls such moves
“acrobatics.” They point out that the robot can safely
drive off the lander and right itself, flip itself over to
get unstuck from fine soil, and lift the whole body off
the ground to let its treads run smoothly to remove
built-up soil. RASSOR is designed to easily make itself
into a Z-shaped position to drop its soil collection into
The robot is designed to skim lunar soil and
dump it into a device that would pull water and ice
out of the dirt and turn their chemicals into rocket
fuel or breathing air for astronauts working on the
surface. The device would be part of the lander that
carries the RASSOR to the Moon’s surface. So, the
robot would be the feeder for a lunar resource
processing plant — a level of industry never before
tried anywhere besides Earth.
A concept mission for RASSOR would have a
2,000 pound payload in addition to the lander, which
would be about the size of the Phoenix lander NASA
sent to Mars. The RASSOR is expected to weigh
about 100 pounds. The remaining payload would be
used to process the lunar soil delivered by RASSOR.
Producing water and fuel from the lunar soil
would save the tremendous expense of launching the
supplies from Earth, since 90 percent of a rocket’s
mass normally consists of propellant — which could be
made on the Moon.
In order to provide enough material to the
production platform to create usable amounts of
resources, the RASSOR would need to operate about
16 hours a day for five years. It would drive five times
faster than the Mars Curiosity rover’s top speed of
four centimeters per second, then shave the Moon’s
surface with a pair of rotating drums, and return to
Information provided by NASA’s Steven Siceloff, Kennedy Space Center. Photos provided by NASA.
72 SERVO 04.2013