Helical Drill Regolith Anchoring System

In Fall 2015, a group of engineering students from Arizona State University came together and formed a team known as “Next Level Devils” to participate in NASA’s Micro-g Neutral Buoyancy Experiment Design Teams (Micro-g NExT) program. After a year of brainstorming, designing, and prototyping, the team was accepted as a finalist for the 2016-2017 program to perform an experiment at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) near the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas. There, a group of NASA divers carried out testing of the project underwater. Read more about the project in this article published by Arizona State University.


The NASA Micro-g NExT program offers undergraduate students an opportunity to test and develop a tool for the application of space exploration. Next Level Devils addressed the specific challenge of designing a tool to anchor NASA equipment or instrumentation to the soil, also known as regolith, on the surface of a celestial body such as an asteroid.

Half-tapered Auger
3D-printed Half-tapered Auger Design
Full-tapered Auger
3D-printed Full-tapered Auger Design
The final designs by the Next Level Devils team were made with simplicity in mind, bearing similarity to traditional augers used in construction. Using computer-aided design tools and parametric equations, the team developed digital models of the anchors. Later, with the support of the additive manufacturing team at Honeywell Aerospace in Phoenix, Arizona, the team was able to produce physical models made of 3D-printed aluminum, as seen above.
Pneumatic Anchor
Anchor with Pneumatic Operation
Hand-Operated Anchor
Anchor with Hand Operation
Primary operation of the tool is achieved using a pneumatic torque wrench. Pneumatic power was acceptable for the underwater conditions of the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory and was also projected as a possibility in a closed-loop circulating air-tool system in space. As a contingency plan, the team included a version of the tool compatible with  hand-operation. Both versions were tested at the NBL.
jsc2017e077060_alt by NASA JSC Education, on Flickr
Group Photo from NASA Micro-g NExT, June 2017

jsc2017e077060_alt” (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by NASA JSC Education


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