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Science on the Cusp: Sounding Rockets Head North

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Portal origin URL: Science on the Cusp: Sounding Rockets Head NorthPortal origin nid: 435730Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2018 - 14:00Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: Gazing up at the night sky from the edge of the Norwegian sea, you know you’re in an unusual place. The frigid winds stream across an open sky, painted by the dance of the northern lights. Outer space almost seems closer here. It turns out, that’s not so far from the truth.Portal image: animation of launch trajectories of Grand Challenge missionScience Categories: Sun

International Team, NASA Make Unexpected Discovery Under Greenland Ice

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Portal origin URL:  International Team, NASA Make Unexpected Discovery Under Greenland Ice Portal origin nid: 435760Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2018 - 13:43Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: An international team of researchers, including a NASA glaciologist, has discovered a large meteorite impact crater hiding beneath more than a half-mile of ice in northwest Greenland.Portal image: Two views of the Hiawatha crater region: one covered by ice, the other showing the topography of the rock beneath the ice sheetScience Categories: Earth

ARCHIMEDES: A Really Cool High Impact Method for Exploring Down into Europan Subsurface

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This blog post originated in the 2017 Science Mission Directorate Technology Highlights Report (33 MB PDF).

Technology Development Conceptual design of ARCHIMEDES operating on Europa.

Europa is one of 53 confirmed moons orbiting Jupiter. While slightly smaller than Earth’s moon, Europa primarily consists of silicate rock and is intriguing in that its crust consists of frozen water. Future missions under consideration to Europa would be enhanced by the ability to penetrate the multi-kilometer-thick ice crust and access the liquid water resident beneath.

To enable exploration of this fascinating celestial body, NASA SMD is funding the development and maturation of several promising ice-penetration technologies. One of these efforts is being executed just outside Austin, Texas by personnel at Stone Aerospace. Stone Aerospace is developing an entirely novel ice-penetrating technology called A Really Cool High Impact Method for Exploring Down into Europan Subsurface (ARCHIMEDES) that uses laser light carried by an optical fiber tether. ARCHIMEDES emits laser light from a nose cone and this direct laser probe allows for efficient penetration of hundreds of meters of ice. This new technology may provide future missions with access to the liquid water underneath Europa’s crust.

This unique approach to ice penetration is advantageous in that it can readily be integrated with a dedicated sensor fiber, which can also accommodate instruments capable of searching for biomarkers and characterizing the radiation/light environment. The combination of the laser penetrator and integrated fiber instruments could be a powerful new tool for a future Europa lander.

The overall technical objective of the two-year ARCHIMEDES technology development effort is to design and fabricate a prototype direct-laser penetrator. The technology development project commenced on 1 March 2017 and the PI has already made significant progress towards the development goals by completing several direct laser penetrator design studies. These design studies leveraged and benefitted from a number of high-fidelity laboratory experiments. The PI has also initiated trade studies and design activities for the aforementioned fiber system.

Impact

This ice-penetrating technology may enable future missions to access and analyze the liquid water under Europa’s crust, which will facilitate the search for life signatures within the liquid water.

Laboratory prototype of a direct laser penetrator making its way through ice. Future Plans

After prototype fabrication is complete, the prototype’s performance will be assessed in harsh environmental conditions similar to those on Europa’s surface. The ARCHIMEDES PI will also explore several strategies for integrating the fiber-coupled optical sensing instruments as part of the development effort.

Sponsoring Organization

SMD’s Planetary Science Division is sponsoring ARCHIMEDES development through the COLDTech Program.

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A Decade of Commercial Space Travel — What's Next?

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In many industries, a decade is barely enough time to cause dramatic change unless something disruptive comes along – a new technology, business model or service design. The space industry has recently been enjoying all three.

Hale-Bopp: The Bright and Tragic Comet

Space.com -

Hale-Bopp was an unusually bright comet that flew by Earth, reaching its closest approach to the planet in 1997. It was most spectacular in the Northern Hemisphere and visible to the naked eye for about 18 months.

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