The Regolith Excavation Challenge promotes the development of new technologies to excavate lunar regolith. Excavation is a necessary first step towards lunar resource utilization, and the unique physical properties of lunar regolith make excavation a difficult technical challenge. The prize – $250,000.

The California Space Education and Workforce Institute (CSEWI) has been selected by NASA to serve as an Allied Organization.  CSEWI, along with competition co-host the California Space Authority (CSA), will be partnering with space enterprise stakeholders to administer the Regolith Excavation Challenge and the Planetary Uncrewed Aerial Vehicle (PUAV) Challenge. 

The Regolith Excavation Challenge promotes the development of new technologies to excavate lunar regolith. Excavation is a necessary first step towards lunar resource utilization, and the unique physical properties of lunar regolith make excavation a difficult technical challenge. Advances in lunar regolith extraction have the potential to contribute significantly to the nation’s space exploration operations.

Teams competing in the Regolith Excavation Challenge will build autonomously operating systems to excavate lunar regolith and deliver it to a collector.  This Challenge will be conducted in a "head-to-head" competition format.  Teams will be challenged to excavate and deliver as much regolith as possible in 30 minutes.

  • Each team’s excavation system must be fully autonomous
  • Systems will perform in a square sandbox filled with compressed lunar regolith simulant.
  • Mass of the system cannot exceed 40 kilograms.
  • 30 Watts of DC power will be provided to the system.
  • Each system will have 30 minutes to excavate as much regolith as possible and deliver it to a fixed collector adjacent to the sandbox.
  • The total purse of $250,000 will go to the winning teams excavating the most regolith above 150 kilograms.
  • California ROBOChallenge 2007 (PDF)

    NASA’s Centennial Challenges program was established to conduct prize competitions in support of the Vision for Space Exploration and other ongoing NASA programs.  Centennial Challenges is modeled on past and ongoing prize competitions. By making awards based on actual achievements instead of proposals, Centennial Challenges seeks novel and lower-cost solutions to engineering obstacles in civil space and aeronautics from new sources of innovation in industry, academia, and the public.

    Competition Background
    Due to the moon’s lack of atmosphere, it is completely exposed to impact with micrometeorites and space weather (such as solar wind and radiation). The geology of the moon has been shaped not by water, wind, and volcanic processes as on the earth, but predominantly by its exposure to the space environment. This results in a highly compacted surface soil, with interlocking particles. The resulting high resistance to penetration and BLOCKING properties make excavation a special challenge on the lunar surface. The unique properties of lunar regolith coupled with the weight, power and time limitations imposed by interplanetary travel make lunar excavation a unique challenge, which is as of yet unmet by excavation technologies developed for terrestrial use. The systems designed to excavate lunar regolith will need to be lighter, more power efficient and able to operate autonomously in order to be effective in a real lunar mission scenario.

    Current excavation technologies are very heavy, use large amounts of power, and require human operators.  In order to facilitate in-situ lunar resource utilization, significant technology development is needed. The Regolith Excavation Challenge is intended to encourage competitors to expand the design envelope beyond what is possible with existing excavation systems.

    Via California Space Authority

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