We propose to develop an in-situ high-resolution X-ray computer tomography (microCT) instrument to analyze rock core samples on the surface of a planet or planetesimal. The instrument will also double as an X-ray spectrometer to map the chemical composition of the surface of the rock core when its surface is not shielded by an opaque container. The instrument will rely on a coring drill to collect and deliver the core sample. Small rock samples can also be analyzed. Several planetary deployment scenarios are envisioned: microCT/XRF analysis of rock cores in future robotic exploration mission, microCT/XRF analysis of rock and soil samples sealed in low Z containers for future sample cashing missions, radiographic analysis of Mars2020 canisters in future fetch rover. The feasibility has been demonstrated during Phase 1 using a miniature breadboard instrument and computer simulations. Quality 3D reconstruction of core samples were obtained and compared well with data from a commercial benchtop instrument. Space deployment of the concept require the development of a 50kV microfocused X-ray source. The Phase II research will focus on further developing the instrument and demonstrating a 50kV X-ray tube with a flight compatible bipolar architecture.
Analysis of rock cores for robotic in-situ science missions for astrobiology or geoscience.
On-board analysis of rock cores sealed in canisters for sample-return, including on a Mars fetch-rover to analyze cores collected by the Mars 2020 rover and help assess best candidates for return to Earth.
On-board Space Station research instrument for the study of multiphase materials in microgravity.
Miniature X-ray tomography instrument for field applications.
Portable applications for cultural heritage materials that cannot leave their country, excavation site or museum.
Portable or robotic application for analysis of small objects for forensics, homeland security, border control.