RASSOR Robotic Excavator

Center: Kennedy Space Center

Category: Robotics, Automation and Control

Patent: 9,027,265

Inventor: Robert P. Mueller


NASA Technology Page

Invention Overview:

The RASSOR is a robotic excavator that uses counter-rotating buckets to collect multiple samples, once samples are collected, it can travel to a desired location and empty the samples from the buckets without the need for a ramp. RASSOR is designed to operate in low-gravity environments making it a first of its kind. It is also symmetric, which allows it to operate when overturned. It has wireless control, telemetry, and onboard cameras for tele-operation but it can also be programmed to operate autonomously



System/subsystem model or prototyping demonstration in a relevant end-to-end environment (ground or space). Prototyping implementations on full-scale realistic problems. Partially integrated with existing systems. Limited documentation available. Engineering feasibility fully demonstrated in actual system application.



Terrestrial applications: chemical and nuclear decontamination, high-risk mining operations Extraterrestrial applications: mining planetary bodies for precious metals, and space construction operations



  • "First of a kind"
  • Small and lightweight

  • Operates in low gravity conditions for extraterrestrial operations

  • Operates if overturned due to its symmetrical design

  • Can be scaled up for terrestrial operation

Invention Disadvantages and Possible Mitigation:

The space mining industry is 15-20 years from becoming a tangible market. In the meantime, the RASSOR will need to prove lower manufacturing costs to be able to compete with large competitors in the excavator market