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VIPER - Student research on extraterrestrical ice penetration technology

  • Recent analysis of scientific data from Cassini and earth-based observations gave evidence for a global ocean under a surrounding solid ice shell on Saturn's moon Enceladus. Images of Enceladus' South Pole showed several fissures in the ice shell with plumes constantly exhausting frozen water particles, building up the E-Ring, one of the outer rings of Saturn. In this southern region of Enceladus, the ice shell is considered to be as thin as 2 km, about an order of magnitude thinner than on the rest of the moon. Under the ice shell, there is a global ocean consisting of liquid water. Scientists are discussing different approaches the possibilities of taking samples of water, i.e. by melting through the ice using a melting probe. FH Aachen UAS developed a prototype of maneuverable melting probe which can navigate through the ice that has already been tested successfully in a terrestrial environment. This means no atmosphere and or ambient pressure, low ice temperatures of around 100 to 150K (near the South Pole) and a very low gravity of 0,114 m/s^2 or 1100 μg. Two of these influencing measures are about to be investigated at FH Aachen UAS in 2017, low ice temperature and low ambient pressure below the triple point of water. Low gravity cannot be easily simulated inside a large experiment chamber, though. Numerical simulations of the melting process at RWTH Aachen however are showing a gravity dependence of melting behavior. Considering this aspect, VIPER provides a link between large-scale experimental simulations at FH Aachen UAS and numerical simulations at RWTH Aachen. To analyze the melting process, about 90 seconds of experiment time in reduced gravity and low ambient pressure is provided by the REXUS rocket. In this time frame, the melting speed and contact force between ice and probes are measured, as well as heating power and a two-dimensional array of ice temperatures. Additionally, visual and infrared cameras are used to observe the melting process.

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Author:Fabian Baader, M. Reiswich, M. Bartsch, D. Keller, E. Tiede, G. Keck, A. Demircian, M. Friedrich, Bernd Dachwald, K. Schüller, R. Lehmann, R. Chojetzki, C. Durand, L. Rapp, Julia Kowalski, R. Förstner
Parent Title (English):Proceedings of the 2nd Symposium on Space Educational Activities
Document Type:Conference Proceeding
Year of Completion:2018
Publishing Institution:Fachhochschule Aachen
Date of the Publication (Server):2019/02/28
First Page:1
Last Page:6
Institutes:FH Aachen / Fachbereich Luft- und Raumfahrttechnik
FH Aachen / IfB - Institut für Bioengineering