The Probe for Europa Subsurface Ocean (2019-2020)

Jupiter’s second moon Europa is covered with thick ice. On the other hand, there is a liquid sea under the ice, and the possibility of the existence of extraterrestrial life is also discussed.
Currently, Shibusawa Rocket is working on a prototype for a probe that investigates the subsurface ocean on Europa. Even though there are many challenges in the realization of this probe and mission, we’d like to draw one of the future visions of human deep space exploration.
I displayed this prototype at Maker Fare Tokyo in August 3rd and 4th, 2019. Additionally, I displayed modified version at Tsukuba Mini Maker Faire 2020 in February 15th and 16th, 2020.


Shibusawa Rocketでは、エウロパ氷底海という人類にとって未知の領域に挑む探査機を構想中で、現在プロトタイプを制作中です。探査機とミッションの実現には多くの難題がありますが、私は人類の深宇宙探査の未来像のひとつを描きたいと考えています。
本プロトタイプは、Maker Faire Tokyo 2019 (8/3~8/4)、そして改良を行ったVersionをつくば市で開催されたTsukuba Mini Maker Faire 2020(2/15~2/16)にて展示・実演しました。





Image to carry out the exploration mission.



The probe is a buried ice digging robot, and equipped with a contra-rotating drill for ice layers of several tens of kilometers in thickness penetrating, and a four-way screw assembly for moving in the water after reaching the subsurface ocean.



This is a concept art depicting the mission.
The picture on the left is an unmanned station on the surface of Europa, which houses the probe inside, and also includes devices that supply power. The circular black plate is a device that generates electricity from radiation from Jupiter.
The picture in the middle is the probe that excavates in the surface and moves toward the ice bottom sea. In fact, the hole is filled with the ice that was excavated.
The picture on the right is a probe under the sea bottom. While floating vertically, explore the object with sonar, and record with LED light and camera. In addition, a unit will be installed to check the presence of seawater components and organisms.



Contra-rotating drill. If rotation is only in one direction, the body of the probe will also rotate, and drilling will not be possible, so the torque will be offset by the contra-rotating drill.
The drill blade is a 3D-printed output (nylon) as it is prototyped now.



Four-way screw assembly in the subsurface ocean. When reaching the sea, slide the shell to expose the unit to the sea. The shell and screw are 3D printed output, but the structural material of the round plate is duralumin.



Screw. It was painted on what had been 3D printed.



Motors and gears to drive the contra-rotating drill. This prototype uses two AC motors. Structural material is 15mm thick duralumin to fasten important parts. The outer shell uses a 15mm thick transparent acrylic for display.



There are many challenges to be solved in order to realize this probe and plan.
For example:
– Transport to Jupiter
– Protection of Jupiter from strong radiation and magnetic fields
– Durability to high pressure in the ice layer and the sea
– Power generation and supply
– AI, Control, Communication in Extreme Environment
However, by solving these, it can be applied to the exploration of ice objects such as Saturn’s satellite Enceladus and many comets that exist in the outer edge of the solar system.
Furthermore, it can be used not only for deep space exploration but also for the earth, as well as for surveys of lakes such as Lake Vostok in Antarctica.



The following are the photographs of the production process.