Wednesday, March 25, 2009

2009 Regolith Excavation Challenge Draft Rules Document

Draft Rules Document - Matt from the California Space Authority -

The most significant difference between this rule set and the one for 2008 is that we have opened the solution space to telerobotic operations. This doesn’t mean the teams get to operate their excavators like RC cars. The operator will be isolated from the excavator, will only be able to receive data collected by the excavator itself, and a realistic time delay of all signals passing from the operator to the excavator is required, making for a reasonable lunar robotic operations analog. Teams who have already developed autonomous capabilities will still benefit from those, freeing up the operator to pay attention to higher level tasks or to apply resources toward further optimizing their excavation efforts. Completely autonomous operations require an extremely high level of integration, and it was decided that this was taking too much focus away from the actual excavation task.
Effectively, power consumption is now limited by the excavator’s mass because it now must carry it’s own power. This relieves the teams from having to integrate their systems with a ramp and power source provided by the competition organizer. This also introduces a real NASA requirement for excavation systems; the need to deposit regolith into a hopper that rises two feet above the surface.

Here's the actual draft Competition Rules document (PDF). From the rules:

The TEAMs that can, using telerobotic or autonomous operation, excavate the most lunar
regolith simulant (above the Minimum Excavation Requirement and within Excavation
Hardware mass limit) from a supplied quantity of regolith within a specified Time Limit will win the CHALLENGE and are eligible to receive First, Second or Third Prize of US$500,000.00, US$150,000.00 and US$100,000.00, respectively.

There are some rules about what not to do: no ordance is allowed, no accumulating regolith by pushing it against the walls, no using the bottom of the Sandbox as a support, etc.