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Planetary Science Division / Science Mission Directorate

Scientific Exploration Subsurface Access Mechanism for Europa (SESAME)

SESAME supports the formulation and maturation of system concepts and the associated technologies capable of accessing liquid water by penetrating the surface ice.

Detailed Summary of Selected SESAME Proposals

0001 – Stone Aerospace

Stone Aerospace will leverage previously developed VALKYRIE (shown) and SPINDLE cryobot.

0002 – John Hopkins

An available biaxial cryogenic deformation facility will be used to validate tether deployment in a relevant environment.
  • Will test multiple communication tether designs bringing at least one approach to TRL 4/5.
  • Characterize strength and performance for various tethers and their deployment mechanisms in a laboratory setting.
  • Model Europa’s thermo-mechanical environmental hazards that could pose risks to probe-lander communications.
  • Evaluate system performance of RF, acoustic, and optical free-space communication strategies.

0003 – Honeybee Robotics

Preliminary SLUSH design showing conceptual component layout.
  • Hybrid, thermomechanical drill system combining thermal (melting) and mechanical (cutting) penetration approaches.
  • Iterative subsystem breadboard development will follow first-order architecture design and identification of critical technologies.
  • Empirical results will be used to validate models before designing and testing TRL 4 hardware.

0004 – JPL

  • Proposed architecture incorporates kilopower into a high pressure vessel and uses waste heat to penetrate the ice.
  • The Cryobot combines multiple ice penetration technologies (melting, water jetting, cutting, and mechanical drilling).
  • Cryobot architecture would be matured to TRL 5 using an iterative process involving the development of numerical models validated with complimentary experiments.
Preliminary design for JPL’s cryobot awarded in response to SESAME solicitation.

0009 – Georgia Tech

  • Leveraging Antarctic experience with Icefin and DORA to migrate the terrestrial hardware to a flight-appropriate implementation.
  • Adapt Icefin to an encapsulated monolithic body with a hybrid thermomechanical drill.
  • Validated the materials list and integration plan by identifying promising technologies, and technical risks.
  • Conclude with a TRL 4 subsurface access drill design with tested mechanical drilling capability in ice.
Preliminary VERNE design showing conceptual component layout.

Assumed Constraints for SESAME

Assumptions for NASA-Provided Assets

    1. A small fission reactor providing 420 We and 43,000 Wth waste heat
    2. A radioisotope power system providing up to 110 We and 2,000 Wth waste heat

SESAME Penetration System Details & Constraints

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