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NASA Challenge: Lunar TORCH

NASA is seeking to challenge the GrabCAD Community to design a mobile lunar heliostat that can be used to support operations at the Artemis Base Camp by redirecting solar energy where it is most needed. The Lunar Tele-Operated Rover-based Configurable Heliostat (Lunar TORCH) system serves as a cost effective multi-purpose tool for lunar operations by manipulating a critical resource (sunlight).


Potential uses include:
1. Concentrating/redirecting sunlight
a. On to existing solar arrays
b. On assets located in shadowed areas
c. Providing radiative heat for ISRU processing


2. Thermal management of lunar infrastructure
a. Increasing thermal gradients for power generation
b. Reducing thermal gradients on structural elements
c. Warming components such as gearboxes
d. Shading instruments such as infrared sensors
e. Reducing solar heating on critical components


3. Illuminating shadowed areas
a. Providing illumination for astronauts/robots working in locations with deep shadow
b. Providing illumination for sensors in shadowed areas


4. Providing beacons for spacecraft and landers with vision navigation systems


The goal of this challenge is to develop an innovative low mass mobile heliostat that can be tightly packaged on a lander and easily deployed on the lunar surface. The basic configuration should be scalable to provide large amounts of solar energy where needed (i.e. ISRU systems located in permanently shadowed regions). The Lunar TORCH could also be remotely operated by ground control or Artemis astronauts and commanded where it is needed to support operations at the Artemis base camp.


The focus of this challenge is on the deployable heliostat subsystem and not on the rover that supports it. Challengers can use a generic rover design or come up with their own if it will help with attachment and deployment of the heliostat subsystem. Many good examples of rovers can be found in the GrabCAD library (i.e. Mars Rover Prototype). The heliostat design should be lightweight, self-deployable, and allow for compact packaging. NASA is looking for innovative packaging and deployment methods that can reliably and autonomously deploy the heliostat subsystem after being unloaded on the lunar surface.


It is expected that the heliostat subsystem will not have to be fully stowed again after deployment. However, the overall system must be mobile, which requires the heliostat structure to be robust enough to allow it to travel over rugged lunar terrain which includes steep slopes. Challengers can consider partially stowing the system or
including locking mechanisms to help with dynamic loads when the system is being relocated. The system will be parked while redirecting sunlight.


For this competition, the reflecting area of the heliostat should be a minimum of 10 square meters when deployed. On the lunar surface, 10 square meters of reflecting area can redirect over 13 kW of solar energy to a specific target. The heliostat subsystem should be able to continuously track the sun to illuminate a selected target without depending on the rover for rotation and elevation.


Design Notes: It is generally advantageous to have a higher reflecting area since it may provide line of sight advantages to the target (e.g. A rover operating in a crater). This can lead to a challenging engineering trade between structural, deployment, and mobility considerations. The design should also be scalable so that it can be tailored for different applications. The angular sweep on both axes should be at least 90 degrees to minimize the need to reorient the rover. Motors used for tracking will likely need to have heaters if they are in shadow, Thermal insulation blankets around sensitive components such as motors and gearboxes will likely be needed.


In addition to the reflecting area, it is expected the overall system will need 1 square meter of photovoltaics for electrical power. Since the solar panels should also track the sun it may be advantageous to incorporate the solar array into the heliostat’s reflecting system. During longer periods of darkness/night in its area of operation the heliostat should be able to traverse to a pre-deployed power source where it can obtain survival power for heaters on sensitive components. This could be with an inductive power coupling to reduce dust contamination issues on the connector.

1. Avoid concepts that require direct human contact or custom robotics to help with deployment.
2. Avoid concepts that are extremely complex as this adversely impacts fabrication, reliability, and increases risk.
3. Avoid concepts that cannot handle lunar dust (i.e. telescoping tubes can seize if contaminated with the very abrasive lunar dust although a one-time use for deployment is OK).


For information on heliostat concepts see:
Stoica et al, NIAC Phase I Report
https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/Stoica_2013_PhI_Transformers.pdf
Stoica et al, NIAC Phase II Report:
https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/161997906.pdf
https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7943717
For information on the Artemis roadmap see:
https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/a_sustained_lunar_presence_nspc_report4220final.pdf

Requirements

  • Contest submissions must include:


    1. CAD models of a deployed mobile heliostat (Submissions to be provided in
    STEP or IGES file formats).
    2. Include a concept for packaging the mobile lunar heliostat system that shows a feasible method of deployment from a packaged state. This may be provided in 2D drawings or as a 3D animations.
    3. Provide an estimate of heliostat subsystem mass and packaged (stowed)/deployed dimensions. For this contest, a graphic showing a basic use case has been provided as a starting point. The concept is expected to be deployed autonomously from a lander without direct human support. Additional features of a mobile heliostat would likely include:
    1. Solar array that provides power to charge on board batteries and avionics
    2. Sun sensors for pointing knowledge
    3. 2 axis Sun tracking motors
    4. Deployment/locking mechanisms (springs, latches, hinges, motors, etc.)
    5. External Power Connector: The system must survive the lunar night and may have a connector to an external power source where it would dock when not in use.
    6. Wireless Communication System: The system is expected to be tele-operated from a pre-deployed local wireless network which will manage communications from the Earth if human operators are not at the Artemis base camp. A high gain antenna for direct communication from Earth is not expected. Assume that the system will operate in an area with small rocks/craters which operators will avoid via onboard navigation cameras. The system will likely be operated on slopes (such as crater aprons) in order to illuminate areas that are in deep shadow.

    Additional features of a mobile heliostat would likely include:
    1. Solar array that provides power to charge onboard batteries and avionics
    2. Sun sensors for pointing knowledge
    3. 2 axis Sun tracking motors
    4. Deployment/locking mechanisms (springs, latches, hinges, motors, etc.)
    5. External Power Connector: The system must survive the lunar night and may have a connector to an external power source where it would dock when not in use.
    6. Wireless Communication System: The system is expected to be teleoperated from a pre-deployed local wireless network that will manage communications from the Earth if human operators are not at the Artemis base camp. A high gain antenna for direct communication from Earth is not expected. Assume that the system will operate in an area with small rocks/craters which operators will avoid via onboard navigation cameras. The system will likely be operated on slopes (such as crater aprons) in order to illuminate areas that are in deep shadow.

  • Technical Requirements
    The overall system (including the rover) should fit into a package that is 2m long X 1.5m wide X 1.5m high. This is a reasonable scale for a basic heliostat system that could provide valuable support. Although a system that can focus the sunlight on to a small/distant target is advantageous for many applications, it is not required in this design iteration. However, to be effective, the heliostat subsystem design must minimize the dispersion of the sunlight so that energy is not lost. This requires very flat surfaces. A successful outcome of this contest are 3D models and graphics, and/or animations of an effective heliostat subsystem that is integrated onto a basic rover. These will be used to communicate the different concepts and will be considered for further
    development.

Rules

  • ENTERING THE COMPETITION:


    If you think an entry may infringe on existing copyrighted materials, please email challenges@grabcad.com.


    By entering the Challenge you:

      1) Accept the official GrabCAD Challenges Terms & Conditions.
      2) Agree to be bound by the decisions of the judges (Jury).
      3) Warrant that you are eligible to participate.
      4) Warrant that the submission is your original work. Warrant, to the best of your knowledge, your work is not, and has not been in production or otherwise previously published or exhibited.
      5) Warrant neither the work nor its use infringes the intellectual property rights (whether a patent, utility model, functional design right, aesthetic design right, trademark, copyright or any other intellectual property right) of any other person.
      6) Warrant participation shall not constitute employment, assignment or offer of employment or assignment.
      7) Are not entitled to any compensation or reimbursement for any costs.
      8) Agree the Sponsor and GrabCAD have the right to promote all entries.


  • Submitting an Entry


    Only entries uploaded to GrabCAD through the "Submit entry" button on this Challenge page will be considered an entry. Only public entries are eligible. We encourage teams to use GrabCAD Workbench for developing their entries. Entries are automatically given the tag "NASALunarTorch"; when uploading to GrabCAD. Please do not edit or delete this tag. Only entries with valid tag will participate in the Challenge.

  • AWARDING THE WINNERS

    The sum of the Awards is the total gross amount of the reward. The awarded participant is solely liable for the payment of all taxes, duties, and other similar measures if imposed on the reward pursuant to the legislation of the country of his/her residence, domicile, citizenship, workplace, or any other criterion of similar nature. Only 1 award per person. Prizes may not be transferred or exchanged. All winners will be contacted by the GrabCAD staff to get their contact information and any other information needed to get the prize to them. Payment of cash awards is made through Checks mailed to the Winners. All team awards will be transferred to the member who entered the Challenge. Vouchers will be provided in the form of Stratasys Direct Manufacturing promo codes.

    We will release the finalists before the announcement of the winners to give the Community an opportunity to share their favorites in the comments, discuss concerns, and allow time for any testing or analysis by the Jury. The Jury will take the feedback into consideration when picking the winners.

    Winning designs will be chosen based on the Rules and Requirements schedule.

  • Schedule


    This Challenge ends on September 13, 2021 (23:59 EST.) Finalists will be announced on September 20th, 2021 and Winners will be announced on September 27th, 2021

Prizes

$7000 in Total Prizes

$7000 in Total Prizes

First Place

$3000

Second Place

$2000

Third Place

$1000

Fourth Place

$750

Fifth Place

$250

About NASA’s Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative.

This contest supports NASA’s Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative. This study is sponsored by the NASA’s Prizes, Challenges, and Crowdsourcing Program and was selected through the competitive Crowdsourcing Contenders Call for challenge ideas. The study will help inform lunar mission architects who are currently selecting the systems that will be used to support the Artemis Base Camp.

4 comments

  • Ananth Narayan

    Ananth Narayan 9 days ago

    Will Heliostat structure remain intact with rover or rover will drop heliostat to desired location and return?

    Ananth Narayan has uploaded 65 CAD models & has left 316 comments.
  • Kevin Kempton

    Kevin Kempton 8 days ago

    For this challenge, the heliostat structure will remain on the rover. This will provide greater operational flexibility.
    For fixed heliostat systems, they would likely be offloaded from the lander and placed where needed by a system similar to what was designed in the ALLGO challenge that was run on GrabCAD last year.

    Kevin Kempton has uploaded 0 CAD models & has left 18 comments.
  • Kevin Kempton

    Kevin Kempton 7 days ago

    Here are some additional notes based on questions I have received:
    1. You do not have to design the electrical circuitry. The intent is that designers must consider the placement and sizes of some key electrical components such as pointing motors, power cables, and actuators (they can be generic representations but should approximate sizes). Motors will also need some thermal insulation due to the extremely wide temperature ranges so that increases the required volume of these components. Another potential example of basic electrical considerations is that if a solar array is included on the reflector, then it must have an electrical cable which must be accounted for when developing the deployment method.
    2. It is expected that the rover will have the appropriate sensors to allow tele-operators to control it (i.e. cameras, accelerometers, and maybe a star tracker for rover attitude knowledge). Operators will command the system to move to the desired location. This capability is allocated to the rover and is not the focus of this challenge.
    With that said, there is one sensor that would be desirable to include on the heliostat subsystem. This is a small, low cost, commonly used sensor called a sun sensor that identifies the relative location of the sun in the sky. Since it would simplify alignment and tracking if it the sun sensor was mounted directly on the reflector it may be worth including it in the design of the heliostat subsystem.
    After the system is in position the heliostat will need to track the sun and the sun sensor can provide regular updates to the rover for pointing calculations without the need for complex orbital calculations.
    It is expected that the operators will command the rover to a specific location and identify the target location relative to the heliostat system. If the sun sensor determines the solar vector the calculations for pointing the reflector to illuminate a target are pretty straight forward. The rover avionics will control all of this and it is not the focus of this challenge.
    3. For this application assume that a few percent reflectance loss due to dust accumulation will not be an issue so no dust cleaning requirement is needed. This is intended to be a basic cost effective system and could potentially be developed to provide energy as a commercial service for lunar operations.
    4. The system is mobile and remains integrated with the rover so that it can be positioned relatively near the target (10 to 200 meters). This is because the sun is an extended object and no matter how accurate the reflector surface is, there will be significant spreading of the reflected light. A heliostat system is not a good choice for long distance power transfer although longer distances are OK for wide area illumination. A mobile system provides much more operational flexibility since there are many potential uses at a lunar base.

    Kevin Kempton has uploaded 0 CAD models & has left 18 comments.
  • Igor Siliotto

    Igor Siliotto about 12 hours ago

    Dear Kevin, my friend Emiliano and I are trying to create the project. We have a couple of questions: Does the torch go down with the rover to the moon? Is the rover dedicated to the torch or does it do other services? Do you want to detach the torch and place it on the Moon with the rover free to take other torchs? Or do torch and rover always have to be together? Is the insulation of motors and other parts to be considered with what thicknesses? Are NASA thermal insulators used?
    Does the final design have to include detailed mechanical and automation design? Do you also need to know which commercial elements (motors, CCDs, etc.) we recommend?
    Thankyou veru much for your attention..

    Igor Siliotto has uploaded 0 CAD models & has left 1 comments.
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