ESMD Course Material : Fundamentals of Lunar and Systems Engineering for Senior Project Teams, with Application to a Lunar Excavator

Contact: David Beale,

Chapter X
Lunar Engineering Handbook
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Additional Resources
Contact Info
About the Authors

This webpage was created for student teams in a capstone design course who will be designing a lunar regolith excavator.  Your project is sponsored and defined by NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD)  The  NASA technical monitor is Robert P. Mueller of Kennedy Space Center (KSC), who is NASA’s Surface Systems Lead Engineer.  Your project directive is to "investigate concepts for Lunar Regolith excavation equipment and propose solutions in the form of completed designs and prototypes.”   

Industry and universities have been independently designing lunar excavator prototypes for several years now.  Some of these prototypes have been competing at the “Regolith Excavation Challenge”   Recent competitors and competition results can be seen at:

By the way, the prize is ...... $500,000!!!  To date no design teams have been able to create an excavator that under the rules of the competition can achieve the regolith production rate needed to win.  NASA is also considering creating an annual student competition.

What's Inside: The Lunar Engineering Handbook  

This webpage contains the "Lunar Engineering Handbook", which is composed of the following chapters:

Chapter 1:  Introduction to Lunar Excavator Design for Senior Project Students Chapter1.htm
Chapter 2:  Systems Engineering – The Systems Design Process  Chapter2.htm
Chapter 3:  Systems Engineering Example of a Cube Satellite  Chapter3.htm
Chapter 4:  Systems Engineering Tools  Chapter4.htm
Chapter 5:  The Lunar Environment and Issues for Engineering Design  Chapter5.htm
Chapter 6:  Component and Material Selection Chapter6.htm
Chapter 7:  Thermal Considerations of Lunar Based Systems Chapter7.htm
Chapter 8:  Computer-Aided Engineering Tools Chapter8.htm

The Best Way to Use this Material in Your Project

At many universities the capstone senior project class is structured to maximize student time exercising the design process, including building a prototype and testing.  There is precious little time for lecture.  But the problem is that there is a substantial amount of lunar engineering background that engineering students need before they can design lunar equipment.

So, to minimize lectures and reading assignments, and still convey the necessary background material, an alternative teaching and learning model is presented that keeps lecturing to a minimum.  This model is realized in "Chapter X".  Chapter X  takes advantage of hyperlinks to condense the material into a chronological design sequence; it is a roadmap for a senior projects multidisciplinary team designing an excavator.  In Chapter X is background information about the moon and lunar environment, with a condensed and accelerated presentation of the Systems Engineering Process. 

So a teaching model based on this material for lunar equipment design is:

  • Assign reading of Chapter X, 2 and 5 to the students.  Students and professor could read and click through Chapter X together during classtime if it is scheduled in a computer lab.  Chapter 2 is particularly important and needs to be thoroughly understood since you will be applying Systems Engineering.  Chapter 5 covers the lunar environment.  This all should take between 1-2 weeks.  Next students start designing, practicing what was learned in Chapter 2.   And use the rest of the chapters as reference material to be called upon when needed.

For those who wish to learn Systems Engineering only and have no interest in the moon, Chapter 2 was created to be a concise standalone presentation of Systems Engineering.

Concluding Remarks

This material has been prepared under a NASA grant.  Myself, coauthors (Daniel Harris, Joseph Bonometti of NASA), Rob Mueller and NASA monitor (Gloria Murphy) - believe that YOU can help make this material better and exciting for future student teams by conveying your experiences, new material and comments via the Comments tab.