A report describes flexible mechanical conveying systems for transporting fine cohesive regolith under microgravity and vacuum conditions. They are totally enclosed, virtually dust-free, and can include enough flexibility in the conveying path to enable an expanded range of extraction and transport scenarios, including nonlinear drill-holes and excavation of enlarged subsurface openings without large entry holes.

The design of the conveyors is a modification of conventional screw conveyors such that the central screw-shaft and the outer housing or conveying-tube have a degree of bending flexibility, allowing the conveyors to become nonlinear conveying systems that can convey around gentle bends. The central flexible shaft is similar to those used in common tools like a “weed whacker,” consisting of multiple layers of tightly wound wires around a central wire core.

Utilization of compliant components (screw blade or outer wall) increases the robustness of the conveying, allowing an occasional oversized particle to pass though the conveyor without causing a jam or stoppage.

This work was done by Otis R. Walton and Hubert J. Vollmer of Grainflow Dynamics Inc., and Ali Abdel-Hadi of Tuskegee University for Glenn Research Center.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to NASA Glenn Research Center, Innovative Partnerships Office, Attn: Steven Fedor, Mail Stop 4–8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. LEW-19015-1