Microgravity Testing of CSSR Sample Verification System

PI: Risaku Toda, Paul Backes (Co-I), NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory

The 2013-2022 Decadal Survey recommended a medium-class Comet Surface Sample Return (CSSR) mission. One of the science objectives of this mission is to ”Acquire and return to Earth for laboratory analysis a macroscopic (≥500 cm3) comet nucleus surface sample”. JPL has been developing the BiBlade sampler chain and fiberscope-based sample verification system for the CSSR mission. The fiberscope sample imaging (FiSI) system is based on nine bundled imaging fiberscopes observing an acquired comet sample soon after the comet sample acquisition. If the sample quantity is not sufficient, the sample acquisition will be re-attempted – multiple times if necessary – until baseline sample quantity is confirmed. This will maximize potential science outcome of the mission.

Technology Areas (?)
  • TA04 Robotics, Tele-Robotics and Autonomous Systems
  • TA08 Science Instruments, Observations and Sensor Systems
Problem Statement

Since the CSSR mission takes place in microgravity, we have previously attempted a bench-top neutral buoyancy experiment to test the FiSI system in simulated microgravity. Although the test results were positive for certain type of samples, we were not able to test bulk cohesive samples we expect from comet surface. In this flight demonstration, we will conduct parabolic flight experiment of the FiSI system on Zero-G corporation’s Boeing 727 aircraft.

Technology Maturation

Various types and quantities of comet surface sample simulant will be tested. The obtained fiberscope images will be analyzed with sample measurement algorithms in order to estimate the sample quantity. Successful demonstration of this sample verification method will bring this technology from current TRL 5 to TRL 6.

Future Customers

This work is a critical enabling technology to achieve the science objective of the CSSR mission recommended by NRC’s 2013-2022 decadal survey. The sample verification system is also applicable to other missions that requires close-up imaging in microgravity environment.

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    REDDI-F1-16 (Jul 2016)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 1 Parabolic

Development Team

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