On planetary surfaces, pressurized human habitable volumes will require a means to carry equipment around within the volume of the habitat, regardless of the partial gravity (Earth, Moon, Mars, etc.). On the NASA Habitat Demonstration Unit (HDU), a vertical cylindrical volume, it was determined that a variety of heavy items would need to be carried back and forth from deployed locations to the General Maintenance Work Station (GMWS) when in need of repair, and other equipment may need to be carried inside for repairs, such as rover parts and other external equipment.
The vertical cylindrical volume of the HDU lent itself to a circular overhead track and hoist system that allows lifting of heavy objects from anywhere in the habitat to any other point in the habitat interior. In addition, the system is able to hand-off lifted items to other material handling systems through the side hatches, such as through an airlock.
The overhead system consists of two concentric circle tracks that have a movable beam between them. The beam has a hoist carriage that can move back and forth on the beam. Therefore, the entire system acts like a bridge crane curved around to meet itself in a circle.
The novelty of the system is in its configuration, and how it interfaces with the volume of the HDU habitat. Similar to how a bridge crane allows coverage for an entire rectangular volume, the RIMS system covers a circular volume.
The RIMS system is the first generation of what may be applied to future planetary surface vertical cylinder habitats on the Moon or on Mars.