Engineering a Space Based Construction Robot 2005-01-3406
This paper describes a machine to quarry construction material, sinter walls, and assemble future space station modules. In prior work, we explored the solar energy requirements to build a 50m diameter, 50m high, cylindrical module out of pulverized rock from a Near-Earth Object, using tailored radio wave fields. In this paper, we describe the issues in the conceptual design of the robotic construction machines. The 4-legged Rock breaker is designed to fit the payload bay of a modern heavy-lift booster to reach Low Earth Orbit, and primary solar-sail propulsion for most of its journey. It uses beamed microwave energy for its cutting operations. Rotating, telescoping arms use integrated laser/plasma jet cutter arrays to dig trenches in spiral patterns which will form blocks of material. Cut blocks are sent into a toroidal cloud of material for use in the force field tailoring for automatic module formation. In this paper, the constraints, basic dimensions and masses of the various system components are discussed. A unique Integrated Rendezvous, Anchoring and Maneuvering System is described. Solid pulsed plasma thrusters are used for maneuvering and as impact torque-hammers to anchor the craft to NEOs. Dynamic analysis of these systems shows how the total system mass is reduced.