Study of a thermal drill head for the exploration of subsurface planetary ice layers

P. Weiss, Kai Leung Yung, T. C. Ng, N. Kömle, G. Kargl, E. Kaufmann

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


The recently discovered water vapor plumes on Saturn's moon Enceladus, the polar caps of planet Mars and the possible ice volcanism on the Jovian satellites call for suitable techniques to explore deep ice layers of the solar system bodies. This paper presents a novel approach to deliver scientific probes into deeper layers of planetary ice. Several existing locomotion concepts and techniques for such probes are presented. After studying the mathematical framework of the melting locomotion process, melting tests with different head forms were done to evaluate the influence of the head's geometry on the melting process. This work led to a novel concept of a thermal drill head, using heat and mechanical drill in combination to penetrate the ice. We compare the performance of such a hybrid concept versus the melting penetration alone by a mathematical model and tests in ice with a prototype of the melting drill head.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1280-1292
Number of pages13
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2008


  • Enceladus
  • Europa
  • Ice
  • Mars polar cap
  • Melting probe
  • Thermal drilling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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