Cassette Factories and Robotic Bricks: A Roadmap for Establishing Deep Space Infrastructures 2005-01-2911
This paper proposes a roadmap for the development of a universal kit-of-parts construction system that can be delivered to a remote planetary surface and replicate copies of itself, while processing in-situ resources, assembling structures, and producing habitats and vehicles that are stockpiled and ready for habitation and use upon human crew arrival. The roadmap calls for four stages of system development: 1) Geometrical, configurational, and kinematic standard framework to achieve self-assembling structure, 2) Self-reconfiguration, self-repair, and cooperative autonomous agents to achieve self-replicability 3) Compartmentalization of manufacturing processes to achieve self-manufacturability, and 4) Achievement of self-sustainability with in-situ resource utilization. The four stages are discussed in depth. Challenges in the establishment of a configurational standard include the capacity to produce a wide variety of stable geometries that are useful in creating human habitable volumes and hierarchical spaces, and basic systematic revolute and prismatic actuation. The capacity for self-assembly will build on top of this standard, with coordinated modular robotic agents that work together to configure themselves into habitats and vehicles. Finally, simplification of manufacturing processes using digital methods, and the use of in-situ materials will be studied to establish “cassette factories” made out of the very modular elements that they themselves manufacture, to establish a sustainable construction system.
The paper concludes with a discussion of some preliminary modular systems that may function as a testbed for exploring the nature of a universal kit-of-parts system (Howe & Colombano 2004).