Exploration of under-ice regions with ocean profiling agents (EUROPA)

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Virginia Center for Autonomous Systems

Europa is an incredibly enticing target for exploration – the nearest reaches of what may be a vast new "habitable zone" of interior oceans warmed and stirred by tidal forces. Decades of NASA and National Academy studies including the most recent planetary science decadal survey have affirmed the preeminence of Europa as a destination for astrobiology research. This report provides a comprehensive technology roadmap and an assessment of current state of the art and future technologies to enable an under-ice mission to Europa. In this study, the authors provide an overview of key mission objectives, a profile of Europa, and a mission overview. The authors then delve into a discussion of the key fundamental science objectives and design tradeoffs to arrive at a comprehensive science traceability matrix and value system for design of a multi-vehicle, under-ice mission to Europa. The current state of the art is assessed and design alternatives discussed. The report culminates in a concept of operations for the mission and a recommended mission architecture utilizing three surface units, each deploying a single cryobot, with each cryobot carrying three biologically inspired, gliding under-ice hydrobots equipped with sensor packages that will characterize the physical and chemical state of Europa’s ocean over its entire depth.

underwater glider, cryobot, hydrobot, Europa