A Microseismometer for Penetrometer Deployment

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Abstract

Seismology is unique in its ability to resolve the deep internal structure of the bodies in the solar system, producing powerful insights into both their current state and past evolution. The success of seismology in looking deep into the interior of the Earth, and later the Moon, has motivated the inclusion of seismometers in the payload on several previous missions. However, since Apollo the resources required to land, deploy and operate seismometers based on conventional seismic technology have so far prevented the successful operation of a seismic network. We propose to develop a subsystem of the cancelled ExoMars seismic system, a micromachined silicon sensor, as a potential instrument which should enable penetrometer-delivered seismic stations and networks. A penetrometer would land at very high velocity, burying itself below the surface of the planet or moon we wish to study. This has the advantage of producing an excellent mechanical connection between to the instrument and good protection from temperature swings and any wind on the surface. Compared to a lander, a penetrometer is a much simpler way of getting such an instrument deployed allowing many more instruments to be deployed for the same budget. The overiding challenge for such an instrument is to have the sensitivity to detect the weak quakes expected while being extremely robust to withstand the very high shock levels expected during the impact of the penetrometer. The microseismometer is based on a set of silicon beams thinner than a human hair that provide a set of near perfect springs for detection of any quakes. Preliminary impact testing has suggested one potential technology route for such an instrument based on packing the springs with a sublimant, protecting them during the initial impact but later disappearing to free up the springs. We will pursue this in parallel with alternative shock-mitigation approaches for both the sensor and electronics. Fabrication of the silicon suspension of the microseismometer will be combined with testing at Imperial and Oxford, with Oxford also developing the electronics needed to pick up the seismic signal.
 
Description How to protect a seismometer during a high impact deployment
Exploitation Route Other hard landings of delicate instruments
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Environment

URL http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7438270.stm
 
Description Provides an approach for future high-impact landing on other planets
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Environment
Impact Types Cultural,Economic

 
Description InSight Mission 
Organisation National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Department Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Provision of a microseismometer for the 2016 Insight mission to Mars
Collaborator Contribution NASA: provision of spacecraft CNES: integration of micro seismometer with other elements of the SEIS payload JPL: integration of SEIS with the other elements of the InSight payload
Impact Accommodation of a microseismometer on the 2016 InSight mission
Start Year 2012
 
Description InSight Mission 
Organisation National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Provision of a microseismometer for the 2016 Insight mission to Mars
Collaborator Contribution NASA: provision of spacecraft CNES: integration of micro seismometer with other elements of the SEIS payload JPL: integration of SEIS with the other elements of the InSight payload
Impact Accommodation of a microseismometer on the 2016 InSight mission
Start Year 2012
 
Description InSight Mission 
Organisation National Centre for Space Studies (CNES)
Country France 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Provision of a microseismometer for the 2016 Insight mission to Mars
Collaborator Contribution NASA: provision of spacecraft CNES: integration of micro seismometer with other elements of the SEIS payload JPL: integration of SEIS with the other elements of the InSight payload
Impact Accommodation of a microseismometer on the 2016 InSight mission
Start Year 2012
 
Description BBC radio and television appearances 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public outreach on Mars exploration
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008,2009,2010,2011,2012,2013,2014
 
Description Participation in the BBC's How to put a Human on Mars 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact High level of public interest in terms of response to website

Appearance at the Imperial Science Festival
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23349496