The BiBlade sampler has been developed for potentially acquiring samples from the surface of a planetary body. The tool could conceivably be used in both in situ and notional sample return missions to planetary bodies including asteroids, comets, and moons. While the tool was designed for planetary sampling missions, it could have terrestrial applications as well.
The BiBlade sampling chain was developed for use in a Touch-and-Go mission architecture where a spacecraft would maneuver to several meters from the surface of a small body and then deploy a sampling tool at the end of a robotic arm to the surface. Upon contact with the comet surface, two blades are linearly driven into the comet surface with a set of springs. The robotic arm transfers and inserts the sampler into a sample measurement station on the spacecraft. The blades are retracted slightly to expose the sample through a 5-mm slit on each side of the blades. Multiple fiberscopes in the walls of the sample measurement chamber capture images of the sample through the slits. The fiberscopes guide the images to a common camera, which takes a picture that includes the multiple images of the sample. If the sample is acceptable, then the arm transfers the sampler to a notional Sample Return Capsule (SRC), inserts the sampler, and then deposits the sample in the sample chamber by pulling the blades all the way back. A lid attached to the sampler at the top of the sample volume is released by actuating a frangibolt, whereupon it is retained at the top of the SRC sample chamber with flexible fingers on the chamber. The sample could be ejected rather than transferred to the SRC chamber, enabling multiple sampling attempts per sample.
This work was done by Paul Backes, Scott Moreland, Mircea Badescu, Nicholas Wiltsie, Jesse Grimes-York, Harish Manohara, Youngsam Bae, Risaku Toda, and Christopher McQuin of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA is seeking partners to further develop this technology through joint cooperative research and development. For more information about this technology and to explore opportunities, contact Dan Broderick at