NASA SBIR 2022-I Solicitation

Proposal Summary

Proposal Information

Proposal Number:
22-1- S13.01-1600
Subtopic Title:
Robotic Mobility, Manipulation and Sampling
Proposal Title:
Sediment Sequestration for Hot Water Drilling Cryobots

Small Business Concern

Stone Aerospace Inc.
3511 Caldwell Lane, Del Valle, TX 78617
(512) 529-9778                                                                                                                                                                                

Principal Investigator:

Dr. William Stone
3511 Caldwell Lane, TX 78617 - 3017
(512) 534-8759                                                                                                                                                                                

Business Official:

Victoria Siegel
3511 Caldwell Lane, TX 78617 - 3017
(512) 619-1737                                                                                                                                                                                

Summary Details:

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) :                                                                                                                                                          
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End: 3
Technical Abstract (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words):

This proposal responds to Focus Area 4: Robotic Systems for Space Exploration; subtopic S13.01: Robotic Mobility, Manipulation, and Sampling describes a need for technologies that provide improved robotic mobility for ocean world deep drilling and water access. This proposal addresses this need with a solution for sediment buildup in the melt stream of ocean world ice penetrating robots (cryobots) that descend via hot water drilling. Ocean worlds remain of critical interest for astrobiology but cryobots require deep drilling to reach areas of interest on Europa or the poles of Mars. Previously built and tested prototype cryobots such as Stone Aerospace’s THOR system demonstrate high efficiency using downward-pointing closed cycle hot water drill (CCHWD) jets on the nose cone of the vehicle, however debris released from the ice could potentially obstruct a cryobot and it will accumulate as refreezing ice behind the cryobot excludes salt and sediment. Our proposed solution mitigates silt, solids, and salt accumulation using HWD jets in new ways. It uses the two-pronged approach of A) control of meltwater circulation, speed, and flow using jet orientation or mechanical rotation plus B) obliquely-oriented HWD jets to create Sequestration Side-Pockets (SSPs) in the surrounding ice. This system is part of an extended plan for using CCHWD jets to manage sediment for cryobots called MJOLNIR (Managing Jets of Liquid for Nullifying Ice Refuse). Control of vectored HWD jets equipped for selectable spray and variable pressure will hollow out SPPs on the side-periphery of the nose cone of a cryobot. These SSPs will accept and accumulate brine and sediment. Controlling jet pressure, angle, spray, and orientation gives precise control of meltwater circulation and speed for sediment transport and deposition. This allows sediment to settle out when appropriate, by centrifugally driving it into pre-cut pockets of still water.

Potential NASA Applications (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words):

MJOLNIR allows ice penetrating cryobots such as THOR to breach debris-laden ice (ice fraction >50%), providing steady state debris mitigation over long descent distances. Potential NASA mission application include:

  • Mars polar cap (2-3 km) subsurface access and sampling
  • Europa’s 10-40 km ice crust with ocean access
  • Ganymede’s rocky ice crust for strata and sampling studies
  • Enceladus’s estimated 10-40 km thick ice crust with ocean or cryovolcanic access
  • Other icy ocean worlds
Potential Non-NASA Applications (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words):

The MJOLNIR system may be implemented on terrestrial hot water drill rigs to manage sediment for glacial and astrobiological investigations:

  • Basal access to bedrock layer through heavily debris-laden ice at base of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland
  • Heavy debris alpine glacier penetration for strata-based sampling, and access to subsurface water conduits
  • Volcanic caldera glaciers
Duration:     6

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