- Science project
- Action structure
- Education & Outreach
- Event Announcements
Place and duration of the visit: The visit was at Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) of University College London (UCL) between Aug. 10th and Oct. 9th 2015.
This STSM investigated ways to increase the accuracy of planetary penetrator probes, in particular for the astrobiological exploration of Jupiter’s moon Europa.
Kostas Konstantinidis is a PhD student at the Institute for Space Technology and Space Applications (ISTA) of Bundeswehr University Munich, Germany. His research revolves around space systems engineering, space mission analysis, and guidance, navigation, and control for accurate landing platforms.
Various geological features on the surface of Europa mark possible recent transport of ocean material to the surface (chaotic terrain, lenticulae, craters, etc.). These interesting features range in size, from 100 km to less than 1 km. Due to severe chemical degradation from the radiation environment, samples acquired from the very surface will not compositionally represent the ocean. Planetary penetrators are probes that would impact the surface at high velocity and implant themselves up to a few meters below the surface. They would thus be ideal for sampling these interesting areas. Penetrators proposed up to now however have a landing accuracy far lower than that necessary to reach the above areas. For example, the CLIPPER Europa ESA Penetrator (CLEP) concept prepared by ESA CDF as a potential ESA contribution to the NASA CLIPPER Mission to Europa would have a landing accuracy of 300 km.
In this STSM we investigated the accuracy requirements for a penetrator design able to reach these areas. Using the CLEP concept as reference we looked into ways to increase penetrator accuracy. By modelling the trajectories of the penetrator, we were able to investigate what factors affect its accuracy, and propose modifications to the penetrator system and mission operations.
The results of the STSM were presented at the International Astronautical Conference (IAC) at Jerusalem in October 2015. The work started during this STSM will form part of a Europa penetrator mission proposal for the upcoming ESA M5 call, as well as part of Kostas’ PhD thesis on accurate landing platforms for the astrobiological exploration of the icy moons.