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ARCHIMEDES: A Really Cool High Impact Method for Exploring Down into Europan Subsurface

Rendering of ARCHIMEDES cryobot on Europa

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.


Stone Aerospace is a Texas-based company dedicated to the exploration and commercialization of the frontiers we know of and the discovery of the ones yet to come. We develop the tools needed to explore the frontier, to survive and work in it, to characterize it, and to exploit it. Our people are both seasoned expeditionary scientists and explorers—who personally use the equipment we design in demanding environments—and best-of-class engineers and coders. We are novel, lean, fast moving, and cutting-edge. We strive to change the way things are done, to cut red tape, and get reliable hardware into the field rapidly. Our business structure and extensive partnerships allow us to swiftly assemble extraordinary multi-disciplinary teams to tackle complex high-tech projects. We specialize in autonomous systems, mobile robotics, fiber-tethered and Wi-Fi controlled vehicles, re-entry vehicles, novel spacecraft architectures, propulsion, structures and dynamics, manned systems, closed-cycle life support, spacesuit PLSS and spacecraft ECLSS systems, 3D mapping (both laser radar and high resolution sonar), guidance and navigation systems, auto-docking systems (ladar, optical, gps-aided, imu-aided, dvl-aided, sonar, usbl), embedded devices, high density power systems, head-up displays, and smart devices.