ARCHIMEDES is the latest cryobot under development at the Stone Aerospace lab and it uses Direct Laser Penetration (DLP). DLP represents a novel approach to penetrating ice. Heretofore, ice penetration systems have fallen into three major classes: mechanical drills, hot water drills, and passive melt probes. In the ARCHIMEDES Project we are developing and testing a 5 cm diameter probe that injects the power from a 5 kW, 1070 nm laser into ice.
In order to test ARCHIMEDES in a Europa-analog environment we designed and built a facility called Europa Tower at the Stone Aerospace lab. Europa Tower is a cryogenic vacuum chamber. It allows us to assess the probe’s performance in harsh environmental conditions similar to those on Europa’s surface. The chamber keeps ice at a temperature of 77 Kelvin and subjects it to a vacuum of one millitorr. Over the course of 2019 ARCHIMEDES DLP probe has undergone several successful tests melting through this “cold ice”. Significantly, it has proven to be 18 times faster and eight times more efficient than passive heating.