Development of a Value System and Mission Architecture for the Exploration of the Oceans of Europa

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Virginia Tech

Of all of the bodies in the solar system, Europa is perhaps the most enticing. Based on several lines of evidence, Europa, a moon of Jupiter, is believed to have an ocean of liquid water beneath several kilometers of ice. This ocean is likely in contact with Europa's rocky core, making Europa's ocean one of the most likely places for life to exist in the solar system outside of Earth. This thesis provides an outline of the technology required for a mission that travels to Europa, penetrates the ice, and explores the ocean below.

In order to create this outline, this thesis first provides background on previous missions to the outer planets. A discussion of the science requirements is presented and then a value system by which designs are evaluated is developed. Current technologies and the design alternatives are presented and evaluated using the value system. A final mission architecture and concept of operations are then presented.

Europa, Planetary Exploration, Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, Melt Probes