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THOR: Thermal High-voltage Ocean-penetrator Research platform

Rendering of THOR cryobot

THOR is a prototype for a new class of exploration vehicle which combines elements of an ice-penetrator (cryobot) and an ocean-profiler (sonde) for future Ocean Worlds exploration.

The full THOR vehicle is a Closed-Cycle Hot Water Drill (CCHWD) cryobot able to penetrate up to 500 m of ice and able to transition to an actively spooled sonde upon breakthrough into the water, a vehicle architecture we term an IOP (Ice-Ocean Penetrator). The vehicle actively spools a tether — providing a vertical control capability enabling controlled breakthrough into the water body, active profiling of the lake chemistry, and re-spooling and recovery to the surface. While Ocean World applications will require nuclear power, the tether also enables THOR to be powered from the surface via high-voltage electrical power to our unique hot-water heating design able to emulate the power density of a Kilopower reactor. The full THOR vehicle will carry a sampling subsystem as well as spatial, environmental, and life-detection sensors to characterize the ice and water it transits through. This platform and sensor suite will then be used to develop and test strategies and behaviors for autonomous exploration and sampling as the vehicle descends through an ice column and into and through a subglacial water body below.


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.