SPACEDRILL: Autonomous core drilling system

The future exploration of the Moon is an extremely complex challenge both in its technical meaning and due to its international context. A system allowing for such exploration is composed of lunar surface modules, the on-orbit gateway, on-orbit support systems and an Earth segment.

Special attention is required for the Moon surface module, which can be divided into subsystems operating on lunar surface and subsystems with primary field of work being subsurface regions. The latter refers to in situ resource utilization or mining processes such as: (i) prospecting phase where the subsurface regions need to be sampled both to characterize chemical/mineralogical compo-sition and to obtain geotechnical information, (ii) excavation phase where large amount of regolith need to be moved from their initial place either for future processing or just to allow for entering the deeper regions (e.g. ice rich).

CBK PAN has been working on the development of autonomous core drill for extreme environments since 2012. In 2014, prototypes of the key modules of the system were manufactured and assembled. In 2015 the prototypes of the key modules were separately tested to verify the compliance with the requirements and validate required functionality, e.g. in vacuum. Finally, the whole system was assembled and tested in the newly constructed testing facility for subsurface operations in CBK PAN.

The project ‘Development of the automatic core drill working in extreme conditions, especially space environment’ (WIERTNICA), finalized in late 2015, was financed by the Polish National Centre for Research and Development Applied Research Program. It was executed within a consortium with CBK PAN as a leader, and two faculties of AGH University of Science and Technology (Faculty of Drilling, Oil and Gas and Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Robotics, Department of Robotics and Mechatronics) as partners. 

Model of the autonomous drilling system
Drilling module
Prototype during tests
Prototype during tests