Team: Edrick Drachenberg, John Thai, Evan Thomas, Will Noll, and Amy Nelson
Research into Europa has indicated that its surface layer is predominantly comprised of water. It is further proposed that the structure of the moon allows for a subsurface ocean underneath a solid ice crust, which make the existence of life in this region plausible.
The goal of this project was to design an ice drilling system, powered by a nuclear reactor, capable of melting through the 25-km thick layer of ice, within 2 months and under specific constraints, in order to transport scientific equipment for exploration and analysis of the liquid ocean. This probe must also be capable of relaying information to the surface of Europa and have adequate shielding to protect the science equipment from radiation damage.
Results and Accomplishments
The project was divided into two main subsystems, primarily focusing on the thermal ice drilling component, to bore through the crust into the ocean, and the pressurized water reactor power component, to provide electricity required by the scientific equipment and dependent of the proposed probe. Additional subsystems included the communication system, the shielding, and a descent control system to ensure a constant tunneling rate for optimum drilling through the ice. A power conversion and heat transfer system exist to provide hot water to the drilling system and to transform the thermal energy from the reactor into electrical energy to be stored and drawn from to run pumping and auxiliary systems.