To date, there are solutions that can collect samples by being deployed from a distance from a low-gravity body or using a touch-and-go approach. To increase precision collection of samples from both consolidated and unconsolidated material, allow for precise sampling location selection, and impart a low impact on the spacecraft, bi-blade sampling devices have been developed.

Blades integrated into a percussive bi-blade configuration sampler.
The blades of the bi-blade sampler move parallel to two rails to penetrate the sampling media and enclose the sample. For the solution to work with minimum energy requirement and maintain sample stratigraphy, all points of the blades that are inserted into the sample need to move in lines parallel to the corresponding sliding rail. The blade wall volume defines the necessary energy required for penetration, and for a given material, the blade shape and the wall volume define the blade stiffness. A previously proposed solution has blades with planar faces. A circular cross-section blade would provide increased stiffness in all directions, allow for tapering in all radial directions, and ease fabrication.

The blade includes a wall and a lid that can be assembled to create the blade, or it can be fabricated in one part. The blade walls are part of a cylinder with the axis parallel to the rail sliding direction. The lid can be perpendicular to the bi-blade planar edge (sampler axis), perpendicular to the defining cylinder axis, or any other orientation defined by the design goal. For example, the blade lid perpendicular to the planar edge would minimize the sampler blade volume for a given sample volume. The sample volume as defined by the two blades is tapered in all radial directions, allowing for easier sampler extraction from the sampled media after collection.

When end of travel on the linear slide is reached, and the maximum penetration depth is reached, planar edges of the two blades come in contact, enclosing the collected sample. The blades can be retracted for sample transfer or can be changed out for an additional sampling event using different blades. The blade design parameters can be optimized such that the two lids form a disk when in contact with each other along the straight edges. This configuration would allow easier tool alignment for sample transfer and encapsulation. The blades can be integrated into a percussive bi-blade sampler or any other bi-blade sampler using a different energy delivery method.

This work was done by Mircea Badescu, Paul G. Backes, Scott J. Moreland, 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, please contact Dan Broderick at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-49596


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the May, 2016 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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