Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 31100
Micro-Penetrator for Canadian Planetary Exploration

Authors: Michaela Skulinova, Wanping Zheng, Yan-Ru Hu, Yvan Soucy


Space exploration is a highly visible endeavour of humankind to seek profound answers to questions about the origins of our solar system, whether life exists beyond Earth, and how we could live on other worlds. Different platforms have been utilized in planetary exploration missions, such as orbiters, landers, rovers, and penetrators. Having low mass, good mechanical contact with the surface, ability to acquire high quality scientific subsurface data, and ability to be deployed in areas that may not be conducive to landers or rovers, Penetrators provide an alternative and complimentary solution that makes possible scientific exploration of hardly accessible sites (icy areas, gully sites, highlands etc.). The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has put space exploration as one of the pillars of its space program, and established ExCo program to prepare Canada for future international planetary exploration. ExCo sets surface mobility as its focus and priority, and invests mainly in the development of rovers because of Canada's niche space robotics technology. Meanwhile, CSA is also investigating how micro-penetrators can help Canada to fulfill its scientific objectives for planetary exploration. This paper presents a review of the micro-penetrator technologies, past missions, and lessons learned. It gives a detailed analysis of the technical challenges of micro-penetrators, such as high impact survivability, high precision guidance navigation and control, thermal protection, communications, and etc. Then, a Canadian perspective of a possible micro-penetrator mission is given, including Canadian scientific objectives and priorities, potential instruments, and flight opportunities.

Keywords: Planetary Exploration, micro-penetrator, CSA

Digital Object Identifier (DOI):

Procedia APA BibTeX Chicago EndNote Harvard JSON MLA RIS XML ISO 690 PDF Downloads 2262


[1] N. I. Kömle, G. Kargl and A. J. Ball, "Determination of physical properties of planetary sub-surface layers by artificial impacts and penetrometry," Advances in Space Research, 28 (10), pp. 1539-1549, 2001.
[2] Yang Gao; Alex Ellery; Mustafa Jaddou; Julian Vincent & Steven Eckersley, "A Novel Penetration System for in situ Astrobiological Studies," International Journal of Advanced Robotic Systems, 2, 281ÔÇö 286, 2005.
[3] Ball, J. Garry, R. Lorenz, V. Kerzhanovich, "Planetary Landers and Entry Probes". Published in June 11th 2007 by Cambridge University Press.
[4] CSEW6 Steering Committee, "Canadian Scientific Priorities for the Global Exploration Strategy," Proceedings of the 6th Canadian Space Exploration Workshop, Dec 1st-3rd 2008, St.Hubert, Quebec, Canada.
[5] R.A.Gowen, A.Smith, A.Griffiths, A. Coates, A. J.Ball, S.Barber, A.Hagermann, S.Sheridan, I.Crawford, P.Church, N.Wells, Y.Gao, A.Phipps, D.Talboys & W.T.Pike, "KINETIC PENETRATORS FOR EXPLORATION OF SOLAR SYSTEM BODIES," 2007.
[6] Smith ┬À I. A. Crawford ┬À R. A. Gowen ┬À A. J. Ball ┬À S. J. Barber ┬À P. Church ┬À A. J. Coates ┬À Y. Gao ┬À A. D. Griffiths ┬À A. Hagermann ┬À K. H. Joy ┬À A. Phipps ┬À W. T. Pike ┬À R. Scott ┬À S. Sheridan ┬À M. Sweeting ┬À D. Talboys ┬À V. Tong ┬À N. Wells ┬À J. Biele ┬À J. Chela-Flores ┬À B. Dabrowski ┬À= J. Flannagan ┬À M. Grande ┬À J. Grygorczuk ┬À G. Kargl ┬À O. B. Khavroshkin ┬À G. Klingelhoefer ┬À M. Knapmeyer ┬À W. Marczewski ┬À S. McKenna-Lawlor ┬À L. Richter ┬À D. A. Rothery ┬À K. Seweryn ┬À S. Ulamec ┬À R. Wawrzaszek ┬ÀM. Wieczorek ┬À I. P. Wright ┬À M. Sims (2009) "LunarEXÔÇöa proposal to cosmic vision", Exp Astron 23(3):711-740.
[7] Todd J. Mosher, Paul Lucey "Polar Night: A lunar volatiles expedition". Acta Astronautica 59, pp. 585 - 592, 2006.
[8] Yan Gao, Rob Gowen, Alan Smith, Phil Church, Private communication, January 2011.
[9] A. Smith et al., "LunarNet Cosmic Vision Proposal" in ge.htm, 2010.
[10] H. Shiraishi, S. Tanaka, A. Fujimura, H. Hayakawa, "The present status of the Japanese Penetrator Mission: LUNAR-A," Advances in Space Research 42, pp.386-393, 2008.
[11] R.D. Lorenz, "Penetrators are not a Panacea: Historic Review and Assessment," Proceedings of the International Planetary Probe Workshop 2010 (IPPW-7), Barcelona, Spain, 14-18 June 2010.
[13] JPL Special Review Board, "Report on the Loss of Mars Polar Lander and Deep Space 2 Missions", 2000.
[17] Surkov Y & Kremnev R (1998) "Mars-96 mission: Mars exploration with the use of penetrators" Planet & Space Sci 46 (11/12), 1689-1696
[18] H. Mizutani, A. Fujimura, S. Tanaka, H. Shiraishi and T. Nakajima "LUNAR-A mission : Goals and status". Advances in Space Research Volume 31, Issue 11, Pages 2315-2321, 2003
[19] Smith, A.; Crawford, I. A.; Ball, A. J.; Barber, S. J.; Church, P.; Gao, Y.; Gowen, R. A.; Griffiths, A.; Hagermann, A.; Pike, W. T.; Phipps, A.; Sheridan, S.; Sims, M. R.; Talboys, D. L. and Wells, N. (2008) "MoonLITE - Technological feasibility of the penetrator concept", 39th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, 10-14 March 2008, League City, Texas, USA.
[24] www/object/index.cfm?fobjectid=45084
[25] Smrekar S et al "Deep Space 2: the Mars microprobe mission" J Geophys Res 104 (E11), 27013-27030, 1999
[26] Lorenz R.D, "Planetary penetrators: Their origins, history and future" Advances in Space Research 48, 403-431, 2011
[27] Robert Gowen, Alan Smith, Berend Winter, Craig Theobald, Kerrin Rees, Andrew J. Ball, Axel Hagermann, Simon Sheridan, Patrick Brown, Tim Oddy, Michele Dougherty, Philip Church, Yang Gao, Adrian Jones, Katherine H. Joy, Ian Crawford, Tom Pike, Dr Sunil Kumar, Toby Hopf, Nigel Wells, Kevin Green, Keith Ryden (2008) "AN UPDATE ON MOONLITE". 59th IAC. 29th Sept-3rd Oct 2008, Glasgow, England.
[28] Hopf, S. Kumar, W.J. Karl, W.T. Pike "Shock protection of penetratorbased instrumentation via a sublimation approach". Advances in Space Research 45, 460-467, 2010
[29] Yang Gao, Andy Phipps, Mark Taylor, Jim Clemmet, Dave Parker, Ian A. Crawford, Andrew J. Ball, Lionel Wilson, Alex da Silva Curiel, Phil Davies, Martin Sweeting, Adam Baker "UK Lunar Science Missions: MoonLITE & Moonraker". DGLR Int. Symp. "To Moon and beyond", Bremen, Germany, 14-16 March 2007
[31] Zelenyi, L., Khartov, V.V., Mitrofanov, I.G., Martynov, M.B. "Shortand Mid-term Russian Lunar Program", Abstract #1804, in: 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Houston, TX, March 2011.
[32] A. Smith, B. Winter, P. Church. "A Verification Strategy for High Velocity Penetrators". Workshop on Spacecraft shock environment and Verificatio,. ESA/ESTEC Noordwijk, The Netherlands, 13 - 14 May 2008
[33] James R. Wertz, Wiley J. Larson "Spacecraft subsystems - Thermal" in Space Mission Analysis and Design, 3rd edition, Microcosm/Springer , pp. 428-459, 1999 ISBN 978-1881883108
[34] Morrison, D.; Neugebauer, M.; Weissman, PR., "The comet rendezvous asteroid flyby mission" In Lunar and Planetary Inst., Workshop on Analysis of Returned Comet Nucleus Samples, p 54-55 (SEE N90-16607 08-90), 1989.
[35] A. Ellery, C. Kolb, H. Lammer, J. Parnell, H. Edwards, L. Richter, M. Patel, J. Romstedt, D. Dickensheets, A. Steele and C. Cockell "Astrobiological instrumentation for Mars - the only way is down", International Journal of Astrobiology 1 (4) : 365-380, 2003.