Honeybee’s Rotary-Percussive Corer (ROPEC) is a lightweight (4kg), low-power rotary percussive drill designed to gather rock cores from Mars to meet a range of science and exploration objectives. With its autonomous operations and bit change capabilities, ROPEC can support astrobiology and sample return missions, and help to identify sites useful for in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) activities.
(ROPEC) is capable of autonomous sample acquisition and delivery from a depth of 5 cm. After a rock core has been acquired, the ROPEC drill can deposit the entire drill bit with a captured rock core into one of several sample cache architectures for return to Earth. Near-term applications include the Astrobiology Field Laboratory and Mars Sample Return missions. As seen in sample rock cores for the Mars 2020 mission (PDF) captured by our first generation rotary-percussive corer, SASSI, harder rocks tend to generate better quality cores.
ROPEC drill is a five-actuator system, which allows for precision control and precise manipulation of the drilling process. It also features autonomous bit changes: a number of unique bits expand the capability of the ROPEC drill beyond core acquisition, including a Rock Abrasion Brushing Bit (RABBit) attachment similar in function to the Rock Abrasion Tools on the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers; a Core PreView Bit that allows an acquired core to be pushed out of the bit and onto an observation “preview” tray prior to storing in the sample cache; and a Powder Acquisition Bit, a hollow drill bit with an internal sleeve which can acquire drill cuttings of various sizes, from all cuttings down to less than 150 microns.