REGOLITH EXCAVATION SYSTEMS:
ORBITECís Variable Geometry Cutterhead is designed to efficiently excavate compacted regolith, rock, and ice-regolith mixtures on the Moon and Mars. The excavation properties of compacted lunar regolith stimulant were tested under a variety of conditions, including varying amounts of water ice. These tests demonstrated that lunar regolith could exhibit excavation properties that ranged from those similar to soft coal to those similar to strong limestone on Earth.
A prototype Variable Geometry Cutterhead was built and tested in several analog materials that have excavation properties similar to those measured in laboratory tests with the lunar regolith simulants. The analog materials ranged in strength from a weak grout block, similar to dry compacted regolith, to Salem Limestone similar to compacted regolith with 8% water ice by mass.