Planetary Volatiles Extractor (PVEx)
Honeybee Robotics Exploration Systems is one of the few entities that is able to obtain volatiles from another celestial body. Our designs enable In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), a space exploration approach to “living off the land” where astronauts or robots harvest local resources. ISRU will be critical for both robotic and human exploration of the Solar System because it can reduce the amount of supplies each mission needs to transport, potentially enabling entirely new mission architectures. It also holds significant commercial potential for space mining because volatiles (mainly water) can be mined and sold as hydrogen/oxygen fuel, helping satellite operators to extend spacecraft life or reach new destinations.
The best example of Honeybee’s capabilities for extracting volatiles is the Planetary Volatiles Extractor (PVEx) system. The PVEx system takes a different approach to traditional mining, using a drill-based system and an integrated volatiles extraction plant to capture water from other planets, moons, and near-Earth objects. A double-wall coring drill penetrates icy material and heats the volatile-rich core, causing water and other volatiles to turn into a gas. This gas is contained in the system and flows into a cold trap, where it condenses into a solid and can be transferred to a storage tank. The system has demonstrated total water extraction efficiency of over 80% in space analog conditions.