MMOD Inspector | Design by Nature

The Challenge | Design by Nature

Design an autonomous free-flyer to inspect a spacecraft for damage from Micro-Meteoroid and Orbital Debris (MMOD).

ZA team

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The project responds to the MMOD problem. An autonomous drone with specialized sound / camera sensors scans the outside of the spacecraft. It gives real-time data to a PC of the spacecraft, analyzing them and assessing the damage by alerting properly.

MMOD Inspector


Our goal is to build a special purpose drone that can move near and outside the spacecraft monitoring the condition of its outside shell.

This drone will be equipped with a special high-definition camera so that it can send appropriate photos to the shuttle and the control center on earth.

The drone will also be equipped with a special echo system.


This idea is based onto dolphins ability to use nasal passages to make a click and sends it through its forehead, which focuses the sounds together into a beam before sending it into the water.

When the sound hits an object in the water, it bounces back to the dolphin as an echo. The dolphin absorbs this returning echo through its jaw.

A passage of fat from the jaw conducts the sound to the dolphin's inner ear, which exchanges nerve impulses with its brain to interpret the object's characteristics, such as size, shape and material.


The sensors can be attached onto a drone and the procedure will be:

1) The drone goes around the spacecraft

2) Scans for damage via special echo system based on dolphin's sonar abilities

3) Saves data onto its memory (locations and dimensions of the damages, surface reflections, angles, photos, etc)

4) Goes back to the spacecraft

5) Gives results to astronauts, i.e. to a special computer with a suitable program for further processing.


Mother nature gave dolphins a special ability. Dolphins are so exceptionally good with sonar, studying them hopefully will help us improve our own sonar technology. Humans can also use this ability as well.

Important detail:

Dolphins don’t produse one but two ultrasounds. Unlike the mechanical devices the Navy builds to detect mines, dolphins can tell the difference between man-made and natural objects, an invaluable skill given that enemies craftily disguise mines. It turns out that dolphins have a remarkably sophisticated sonar ability.


Extreme Access Flyer to Take Planetary Exploration Airborne


A Dolphin's Sonar Abilities


SpaceApps is a NASA incubator innovation program.