The Ultrasonic Planetary Core Drill project seeks to build a space-compatible tool that can extract samples of rock from up to 30 cm beneath the surface and then containerise them for caching or return to Earth. This tool will be developed by a consortium led by the University of Glasgow (UK) and supported by Space Systems Finland (Finland), LIDAX (Spain) and Magna Parva (UK).
The University of Glasgow will provide expertise in the field of ultrasonic drilling, which is used to penetrate rock without generating large reaction forces and thus enables deployment of the UPCD from a small lander. Space Systems Finland will provide software that will enable autonomous operations of the device, which will be essential for sample preservation, LIDAX will produce a deployment system to permit highly repeatable operations, and Magna Parva will carry out the vital systems engineering functions.
The focus of the UPCD project will be a field trial in an analogue site, namely the active permafrost of Alexander Island, Antarctic. This volatile-bearing rock is exceptionally Mars-like and it is a key objective of the UPCD project to extract and containerise samples with the volatiles still intact. Ultrasonic drilling with its high downhole efficiency and supported autonomous sample health monitoring, offers drilling without elevating the sample temperature, thus reducing drive-off of the compounds that could tell us so much about the history of water on other planets.
These experiments will only be possible, and the results only meaningfully analysed, if we are confident that the drill site is representative of volatile-bearing rocks and that the containerised samples contain the volatiles we seek. The engineering team at the trials will be accompanied by a scientist specialising in the history of water in the solar system, to ensure selection of appropriate drill sites and to evaluate the quality of the samples we extract.
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Funding SchemeCP-FP - Small or medium-scale focused research project
LE19 1WY Leicester