Mar 6, 2017

Lecturer: Rob Mueller, Kennedy Space Center

Mr. Rob Mueller is a Senior Technologist for Advanced Projects Development at NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in the Exploration Research and Technology Programs Directorate. He is the co-founder of the NASA Swamp Works innovation labs and the KSC Granular Mechanics & Regolith Operations (GMRO) Lab.

Technical expertise includes Robotics, Mechanical Systems Design, Composite Materials, In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), Planetary Outpost Construction, Surface & Ground Operations, Conceptual Systems Design and Mission Architecture Design. He has worked on the Space Shuttle, International Space Station, X-33, Atlas V, Orbital Space Plane, 2nd Generation Reusable Launch Vehicles, Mars Exploration Studies and Lunar Exploration programs. More recently, Mr. Mueller has been leading the development of technologies required for Planetary Surface Systems including developing the specifics of Lunar, Asteroid and Mars Regolith Excavation and other robotic surface support equipment.

Rob Mueller has worked for NASA at Kennedy Space Center, Johnson Space Center and the Jet Propulsion Lab. Mr. Mueller was awarded a Bachelor of Science (BSc.) degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Miami (1988) and a Master (MSSE) of International Space Systems Engineering from the Technical University of Delft (2006), in the Netherlands as well as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT, 1994). Mr. Mueller has 28 years of engineering and management experience in the space industry and has been the recipient of numerous NASA awards including the Astronaut’s Personal Achievement “Silver Snoopy” award, a NASA Silver Achievement Medal and a NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal.

Topic: Construction with Regolith

Planetary bodies in our solar system are covered with crushed rock and associated debris from billions of years of high energy impact events. The crushed rock is known as regolith and presents a unique opportunity since it can be used as a construction material in outer space. The density of basalt rock ranges from 2.5 gr/cm^3 to 2.9 gr/cm^3 and its compressive strength varies from 144 to 292 Mpa, which is 5 to 10 times stronger than terrestrial concrete. Typical terrestrial Portland cement concrete densities are 2.4 gr/cm^3, so it is impractical and cost prohibitive to launch concrete into space. While other construction methods using imported materials are possible, using indigenous materials, such as basalt regolith, is appealing since the materials can be locally sourced. The rapidly advancing state or robotics combined with the use of in-situ materials presents an opportunity to develop new construction technologies for planetary surfaces. Examples of such construction applications include habitats for humans, hangars to shelter equipment, landing pads, roads, berms, radiation shelters and other infrastructure. This presentation will give an overview of recent research associated with regolith construction technologies, especially the emerging field of 3D printing using regolith concrete materials.

Recommended Readings:

Khoshnevis, B., Bodiford, M. P., Burks, K. H., Ethridge, E., Tucker, D., Kim, W., … & Fiske, M. R. (2005, January). Lunar contour crafting—a novel technique for ISRU-based habitat development. In 43rd AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit—Meeting Papers (pp. 7397-7409).

Mueller, R. P., Howe, S., Kochmann, D. et al (2016), “Additive Construction for Earth & Space using In-Situ Resources”, summarizing the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) Workshop Results. American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), to be presented at the Earth & Space 2016 Conference, Orlando, Florida., click here to download

Mueller, R. P., Sibille, L., Hintze, P. E., Lippitt, T. C., Mantovani, J. G., Nugent, M. W., & Townsend, I. I. (2014) “Additive Construction using Basalt Regolith Fines.” American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Earth & Space 2014 Conference Proceedings, St. Louis, Missouri., click here to download

Metzger, P. T., Muscatello, A., Mueller, R. P., & Mantovani, J. (2012). Affordable, rapid bootstrapping of the space industry and solar system civilization. Journal of Aerospace Engineering, 26(1), 18-29., click here to download

Zacny, K., Mueller, R. P., Craft, J., Wilson, J., Hedlund, M., & Cohen, J. (2010). Five-step parametric prediction and optimization tool for lunar surface systems excavation tasks. ASCE Earth and Space, 1517., click here to download

Lecture Slides: click here to download

Videos Presented:
Dust to Thrust:
Contour Crafting:

Recorded talk: click to view