5 June 2009:
NASA has approved $250,000 in upgrade funding for the Endurance AUV for the upcoming 2009 field season at West Lake Bonney, Antarctica. Based upon the results and experiences in the vehicle’s successful 2008 field season, Stone Aerospace engineers and scientists from University of Illinois at Chicago and Montana State University developed recommendations to improve vehicle performance, sub-ice survivability, and data collection characteristics. The approved upgrade package includes new battery technology and an in-water battery recharge system; maintenance service for the servo motors driving Endurance’s science payload; precision registered sensor mounts for critical metrology sensors; graphical user interfaces (GUIs) for extracting data from the robot and for interfacing with the science payload; hardware for a real-time science sensor monitoring station in mission control, code development to display data from Endurance’s multi-beam sonar in a vehicle real-time situational awareness visualizer used at mission control; and semi-automated sonar geometry correction to account for beam refraction due to chemocline water density stratification in the sub-glacial lake. Stone Aerospace engineers have already begun work on these upgrades in anticipation of the start of Lake Bonney field operations in October.