January 24, 2022

News

News Network

This Hopping Robot Could Explore the Solar System’s Icy Moons

18 min read

SPARROW, a steam-powered robotic concept, could one day take giant leaps over some of the most hazardous terrains known (and unknown) in the solar system.


Steam locomotion may sound like an antiquated way to get around, but it might be getting a science fiction makeover as we expand our reach into the solar system.

A novel robotic concept being investigated at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California would use steam propulsion to hop across the sort of icy terrains found on Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Both are thought to host vast subsurface oceans of salty water under a thick ice crust. But while that makes them fascinating destinations for scientific study, the little we know about their surfaces could also make navigating them especially challenging.

That’s where the Steam Propelled Autonomous Retrieval Robot for Ocean Worlds, or SPARROW, comes in. About the size of a soccer ball, the robot consists of a system of thrusters, avionics and instruments encased in a protective spherical cage. To keep the environment pristine for study, SPARROW would run not on rocket fuel but on steam produced from melted ice, traveling primarily through the air via short thrusts. In the sort of low-gravity environment found on those distant icy moons, there’d be no atmospheric drag to slow it down, enabling hops of many miles over landscapes that other robots would have difficulty navigating.

NASA is researching a hopping robot that can easily navigate the harsh glacier-like terrain on icy worlds in our solar system. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. NASA 360 takes a look at the NASA Innovative Advanced Concept (NIAC) called S.P.A.R.R.O.W., a revolutionary approach to exploring frozen ocean worlds. Credit: NASA 360

“The terrain on Europa is likely highly complex,” said Gareth Meirion-Griffith, JPL roboticist and the lead researcher of the concept. “It could be porous, it might be riddled with crevasses, there might be meters-high penitentes” – long blades of ice known to form at high latitudes on Earth – “that would stop most robots in their tracks. But SPARROW has total terrain agnosticism; it has complete freedom to travel across an otherwise inhospitable terrain.”

The concept depends on a lander serving as the home base for SPARROW. It would mine the ice and melt it down before loading the water onto the hopping robot. SPARROW would then heat the water inside its engines, creating bursts of steam to give a boost off the surface. When low on fuel, the hopping bot would return to the lander for more, also dropping off any scientific samples for further analysis.

To maximize the science investigations that could be done, many SPARROWs could be sent together, swarming around a specific location or splitting up to explore as much alien terrain as possible.

In 2018, SPARROW was awarded Phase I funding by the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, which nurtures visionary ideas that could, someday, be used in future space missions. Phase I studies explore the overall viability and advance the Technology Readiness Level (TRL). Eligible recipients of Phase I awards can propose a follow-on Phase II study.

For SPARROW, the NIAC Phase I funding allowed the development and testing of different water-based propellant systems that could be used to produce steam in the most efficient way. Additionally, the SPARROW team was able to better understand how the spherical robot might tumble when landing on chaotic icy terrain by using computer simulations, thereby identifying the most efficient angle of launch and speed of hop.

“From this, and related propulsion calculations, we were able to determine that a single long hop would be more efficient that several smaller hops,” added Meirion-Griffith.

NIAC is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is responsible for developing the new cross-cutting technologies and capabilities needed by the agency.

News Media Contact

Ian J. O’Neill
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-2649
ian.j.oneill@jpl.nasa.gov

Clare Skelly
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-358-4273
clare.a.skelly@nasa.gov

2020-118

News Network

  • Iranian National Pleads Guilty to Violating U.S. Sanctions Against Iran
    In Crime News
    More from: July 22, 2021 [Read More…]
  • Arms Control and International Security Since January 2017
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Dr. Christopher Ashley [Read More…]
  • Federal Jury Convicts Florida Man for Role in Defrauding FDA and Distributing Designer Anabolic Steroids Labeled as Dietary Supplements
    In Crime News
    On Dec. 9, a federal jury in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, convicted James Boccuzzi, 37, of Boca Raton, Florida, of one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.
    [Read More…]
  • Social Security Contracting: Relevant Guidance Should Be Revised to Reflect the Role of Contracting Personnel in Software Development
    In U.S GAO News
    The approach followed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in awarding and overseeing contracts generally aligns with the requirements GAO reviewed. For the 27 contracts and orders GAO reviewed, SSA varied its approach depending on the contract type used and the dollar value. For example, one of SSA's written acquisition plans acknowledged the risks to the government associated with time-and-materials contracts. From fiscal year 2015 through 2019, SSA obligated 22.7 percent of its contract dollars on time-and-material contracts compared with 10.5 percent at other civilian agencies. In addition, from fiscal year 2015 through 2019, the rate at which SSA used competitive award procedures to achieve the best value for the agency increased by nearly 20 percentage points. This increase was the result of the agency's increased use of competition in its contracting for information technology (IT). SSA relies heavily on IT resources to support the administration of its programs and related activities. During fiscal years 2015 through 2019, about 65 percent of the $8.3 billion in contract obligations were for IT goods and services compared with about 16 percent at other civilian agencies. The figure shows the percentage of obligations for IT goods and services at SSA. Percentage of Social Security Administration's Contract Obligations for Goods and Services during Fiscal Years 2015 through 2019 SSA adopted an Agile approach to software development for some of its critical IT programs in 2015. An Agile approach to software development involves incremental improvements to software rather than the more traditional single-track approach. Subsequently, SSA developed an IT modernization plan in 2017 that states SSA will use an Agile methodology. GAO's draft Agile Assessment Guide states that an organization's acquisition policies and guidance should support an Agile development approach and identify clear roles for contracting personnel, since this is a different approach than federal agencies previously used. However, GAO found SSA's acquisition handbook does not specifically identify a role for contracting personnel with respect to contracts and task orders involving Agile, which GAO has identified as a leading practice. Identifying a role for contracting personnel in the Agile process should better position SSA to achieve its IT modernization goals and provide appropriate levels of oversight. SSA is responsible for delivering services that touch the lives of virtually every American. To do so, SSA relies on a variety of products and services, including information technology (IT) systems. SSA obligates approximately $1.5 billion annually to procure goods and services, 65 percent of which are IT-related. GAO was asked to assess how SSA implements its contracting and acquisition processes. This report examines: (1) how SSA awards and oversees contracts for products and services, and (2) the extent to which SSA has updated its guidance regarding the role of contracting personnel in software development efforts. GAO reviewed SSA's acquisition policies, interviewed contracting officials, and reviewed a non-generalizable sample of 27 high- and lower value contracts and orders with dollars obligated in fiscal years 2014 through 2018. GAO also examined data from fiscal years 2015-2019 to determine what SSA contracted for and reviewed IT guidance. GAO compared SSA's practices to leading practices for Agile software development with respect to the roles of contracting personnel. GAO recommends that SSA revise relevant guidance to identify the roles of contracting personnel in Agile software development. SSA agreed with this recommendation. For more information, contact William Woods at (202) 512-4841 or woodsw@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Opening Statement Before the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • New Jersey Man Convicted of Conspiring to Defraud IRS in Mortgage-Withholding Tax Scheme
    In Crime News
    A federal jury convicted a New Jersey man today of conspiring with individuals in Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and New York in a “mortgage recovery” tax fraud scheme and for assisting in the filing of false returns, among other tax offenses.
    [Read More…]
  • Chad Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Indian Minister of External Affairs Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar Before Their Meeting
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Department of Homeland Security: Progress Made Strengthening Management Functions, but Work Remains
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Shortly after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was formed, GAO designated implementing and transforming DHS as a high-risk area to the federal government because it had to transform 22 agencies—several with major management challenges—into one department. Progress made. In 2013, GAO reported that challenges remained for DHS across its range of missions, but that the department had made considerable progress transforming its original component agencies into a single cabinet-level department. As a result, GAO narrowed the scope of the high-risk area to focus on strengthening DHS management functions—specifically acquisition, information technology, financial, and human capital management. DHS's efforts to strengthen and integrate its management functions have resulted in the department meeting 3 of 5 criteria for removal from GAO's High-Risk List—demonstrating leadership commitment, having an action plan, and monitoring the effectiveness of its actions. DHS has partially met the remaining two criteria for removal—having sufficient capacity and demonstrating progress. Several factors contributed to DHS's success in narrowing the scope of the high-risk area. These include: DHS's top leaders demonstrated leadership commitment and support for addressing the department's challenges, which helped ensure sustained, consistent progress in this high-risk area. DHS consistently communicated its efforts and regularly sought constructive and specific feedback from GAO on its strategy and approach to addressing the high-risk area. Work remaining. Continued progress for this high-risk area depends on DHS addressing its remaining management challenges. For example, DHS needs to make additional progress identifying and allocating resources in acquisition and financial management. For instance: DHS lacks acquisition support staffing plans and has not clearly defined which acquisition positions are critical for oversight responsibilities, limiting DHS's insight into whether it has appropriate staff to carry out its duties. DHS's financial statement auditor identified several capacity-related issues, including resource limitations and inadequate staff training, resulting in material weaknesses in its 2020 financial statements. DHS also has work remaining to demonstrate progress implementing corrective measures. Specifically, of the 30 outcome measures GAO uses to gauge the department's progress, DHS has not yet fully addressed 12 of 30 measures. For example, DHS needs to effectively implement its long-term financial systems modernization efforts and use department-wide training data to inform its human capital programs. In the coming years, DHS needs to continue implementing its remaining work and sustaining its progress to-date. Why GAO Did This Study The events of September 11, 2001, led to profound changes in government agendas, policies, and structures to confront homeland security threats. In 2003, DHS began operations, with missions to prevent terrorist attacks and reduce the country's vulnerability to future terrorism. GAO's High-Risk List identifies programs and operations (such as DHS's management functions) that are vulnerable to waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement, or in need of transformation. GAO's five criteria for removing areas from the High-Risk List guide the assessment of DHS's progress. This statement addresses DHS's progress and actions needed to strengthen its management functions. It is based on reports in GAO's high-risk series, including its most recent March 2021 update, as well as selected updates on DHS's efforts as of September 2021. For this work, GAO analyzed DHS documents and data and interviewed DHS officials. DHS Progress against High-Risk List Removal Criteria For more information, contact at (404) 679-1875 or curriec@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Russian National Extradited to United States to Face Charges for Alleged Role in Cybercriminal Organization
    In Crime News
    A Russian national, residing in the Yakutsk region of Russia and in Southeast Asia, had his initial appearance in federal court today after his extradition from the Republic of Korea to the Northern District of Ohio to face charges for his alleged role in a transnational, cybercriminal organization.
    [Read More…]
  • Seattle Software Developer Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud for COVID-Relief Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A Seattle man pleaded guilty today to one count of wire fraud for carrying out a scheme to defraud several COVID-19 relief programs.
    [Read More…]
  • Department Press Briefing – February 25, 2021
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Reaches Agreement with Asotin County, Washington, Regarding Alleged Sexual Harassment by Superior Court Judge
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department has filed a complaint against Asotin County, Washington, alleging that the County discriminated against a female deputy clerk on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
    [Read More…]
  • Florida Man Charged with COVID Relief Fraud, Health Care Fraud and Money Laundering
    In Crime News
    A Florida man has been charged regarding allegations that he fraudulently obtained a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan and an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), and that he orchestrated a conspiracy to submit false and fraudulent claims for reimbursement to Medicare and CareCredit, and to defraud his own patients by charging them thousands of dollars for chiropractic services under false pretenses.
    [Read More…]
  • United States Condemns Violence Against Peaceful Protesters in Sudan
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
  • State Department Terrorist Designation Reviews and Amendments
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Court Orders USDA-Licensed Breeder to Provide Immediate Care to Dogs Found to Be in Serious Danger
    In Crime News
    A federal court on Sept. 28, issued a temporary restraining order against Daniel Gingerich, an Iowa dog breeder, based on claims that he is placing the health of hundreds of dogs in “serious danger” in violation of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
    [Read More…]
  • Joint Statement of the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Expanded Political Dialogue
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • GAO Strategic Plan 2004-2009 (Superseded by GAO-07-1SP)
    In U.S GAO News
    This publication has been superceded by GAO-07-1SP, GAO Strategic Plan, 2007-2012, April 2007. GAO presented its strategic plan for serving the Congress for fiscal years 2004 through 2009. In keeping with its commitment to update our plan every 2 years, with each new Congress, this plan describes our proposed goals and strategies for supporting the Congress and the nation in facing the challenges of a rapidly changing world while addressing the nation's large and growing long-term fiscal imbalance. Indeed, even since the last plan, much has changed. Policymakers are therefore increasingly being called on to distinguish wants from needs and to judge what the nation can afford, both now and in the longer term. Policymakers also face a world in which national boundaries are becoming less relevant when addressing a range of economic, security, social, and environmental issues. These broad themes--security, the changing economy, global interconnectedness, an aging and more diverse population, scientific and technological change, concern for quality of life, and evolving governance structures--provide the context for GAO's plan. The broad goals and objectives of the plan have not altered dramatically since the last plan, but recent events account for some modifications in emphasis. Because of the large and growing long-term fiscal imbalance facing the nation, GAO has identified this as a separate theme for its plan. Therefore, it will continue to increase its emphasis on work related to the transformation of the federal government, as it addresses fiscal challenges, new priorities and world conditions, as well as a substantial turnover in its workforce. GAO's High-Risk Series, which began more than a decade ago with an emphasis on fraud, waste, and abuse, has most recently expanded to include challenges in broad-based transformation, and GAO will continue to use the high-risk designation to highlight additional areas facing major transformation challenges. Given the continued national focus on homeland security, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, and the ongoing war on terrorism, GAO expects to pay continuing attention to monitoring the progress of the department and other critical parts of the federal government in becoming effective structures for meeting national needs. Because the pressures to meet the health care and retirement needs of a growing elderly population continue to mount, GAO expects that health care cost and quality, along with public and private pension issues, will come under increasing scrutiny and require additional effort and attention. As the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan continues and other global events unfold, GAO expects to provide additional support to the Congress in overseeing the pace and cost of related federal efforts. Additionally, as the Department of Defense embarks on a major transformation effort following the enactment of sweeping new authorities, GAO expects to report on the department's progress and effectiveness. To help support its efforts on behalf of the Congress and the American people, GAO has set itsself the goal of becoming a model agency and world-class professional services organization--a goal that remains as vital as ever. To make sure that the plan is an accurate reflection of congressional and national needs, GAO invited comments on a draft of this plan from Members of the Congress and their staffs; its sister congressional agencies--the Congressional Budget Office and the Congressional Research Service; the inspectors general; state and local government audit organizations; and other key accountability organizations. It has incorporated many of these comments in this final version of the plan.
    [Read More…]
  • Utah Company and Its Owner Plead Guilty to Wildlife Trafficking Charges
    In Crime News
    A Utah man and his company Natur Inc. pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Salt Lake City to violating the Lacey and Endangered Species Acts.
    [Read More…]
Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.