NASA is actively considering surface missions to explore planetary bodies that may harbor liquid oceans, such as Europa and Enceladus. While these moons outwardly present an icy surface, scientists believe tidal activity driven by their respective host planets may drive thermal activity beneath, sustaining warm bodies of water that could potentially provide conditions favorable for life. Robotic penetration technologies are needed to drive through the ice layer, enabling access to subsurface oceans for exploration. A leading approach to drilling surface ice for remote space missions involves use of a robotic melt‑probe that would use residual heat from its radioisotope source to supply a warm water jet to accelerate the descent. A critical need for this type of system is a water jet pump that can operate in the extreme inhospitable environment of a deep subsurface ice, while reliably delivering melted ice to the jet nozzle for a long endurance, persistent drilling activity. To meet this need, Creare proposes to develop a robust, miniature, high speed water jet pump, designed for very long service life with limited sensitivity to inlet debris present in the ice‑melt. The proposed pump directly enables needs requested by NASA 2020 Topic S4.02: Ice penetration technologies reaching more than 1 km in depth and enabling access to subsurface oceans.
Creare’s water jet pump is designed specifically with NASA’s needs in mind, in particular to enable deep ice drilling that will facilitate exploration of subsurface oceans thought to be present on Europa and Enceladus. Other apparent NASA uses for such a pump include for melt‑probes to explore ice caps on the moon or on Mars, or drilling within ice on a comet.
Downhole oil and gas production and water production, which similarly require a pump tolerant to abrasive particles and rated for elevated ambient pressures and high ambient temperatures. Markets are remote areas where high reliability and robustness are paramount. The pump could also be paired with Earth‑based melt‑probe to enable drilling for oil and gas exploration regions of the Arctic.