In a domain such as space technology, where robustness, mass, volume and power efficiency are key, biological organisms may provide inspiration for new systems with high performance. By using micro-technology processes, designers of space systems may take advantage of the millions of years over which miniaturised mechanisms in plants and animals have been optimised for survival. Space exploration often requires systems equipped with drills, and miniaturised drillers could enable a number of new space operations. Two natural digging systems have been studied as potential miniature space digging systems; the ovipositors of the female locust and of sirex noctilio, a species of woodwasp. Being insectoid systems, the mechanics of their design work on an inherently small scale, though they are also thought to be scalable. Results of preliminary studies, performed during collaboration between the Advanced Concepts Team of ESA, the University of Bath, the University of Surrey, D’appolonia and EADS-Astrium, are presented and discussed. Engineering solutions are proposed and analysed to assess the potential of new bio-inspired miniaturised digging systems for space applications.

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