Planetary Deep Drill

Planetary Deep Drill

Deep planetary drills offer a wealth of information to planetary geologists and astrobiologists. Even more interesting is the ability to reach liquid water by drilling into ocean worlds such as Europa and Enceladus. The Planetary Deep Drill is designed to penetrate up to thousands of meters deep through soil, ice, and other materials on planets and moons of scientific interest.

The system consists of a wire-line rotary-hammer drill, whose depth of penetration is limited only by the length of the wire it is suspended from. This enables drilling at great depths, beyond the reach of traditional or telescoping drill architectures.

The Planetary Deep Drill has been successfully field tested in gypsum, which offers conditions similar to that of water-ice at low temperature. During a 2015-16 field test, the drill penetrated almost 50 feet.

The system can be deployed from a variety of platforms, providing deep subsurface access with a small surface footprint. This technology also enables new in-situ analysis applications through integration of in-drill sensors, including fluorescence and Raman Spectroscopy analysis — in essence, bringing the instruments to the deep subsurface sample.

The project is funded by NASA PSTAR program and is a collaborative effort with NASA JPL.