SILENUS - Spectrometer Investigating the Livability of Enceladus with a Network of Underground Seismometers. In the Caltech Space Challenge, I worked on a team of 16 engineers and scientists to create a novel mission design using a small network of landers to probe for evidence of life on Saturn’s moon, Enceladus.
As a designer and project manager, I created the visual aesthetics for the final deliverables and facilitated the team needs in the tight schedule of the Challenge.
How to design a cost-effective and low-risk probe mission to explore the possibility of habitable conditions on Saturn's moon, Enceladus?
The Caltech Space Challenge brings 32 talented and highly-motivated students to the Caltech campus to participate in a 5-day international space mission design competition.
The participants are split into two teams, Voyager and Explorer. I was in Team Voyager, and both teams work under the mentorship of experts from industry, NASA and academia to design their mission concept from scratch to final proposal.
The Challenge is a unique opportunity for young and enthusiastic students to build technical and teamwork skills, interact with world-renowned experts in space exploration and connect to like-minded peers from all around the world.
In 2005, NASA's spacecraft, Cassini, discovered hints of something interesting happening on Enceladus in one of its flybys.
It wasn't until 2015 when Cassini revealed the dramatic truth: Enceladus is an active moon that hides a global ocean of liquid salty water beneath its crust, with jets of icy particles from that ocean, gushing out into space.
Is or was there a habitable environment on Enceladus?
Named after the Greek mythological character who slayed the giant Enceladus with his spear, SILENUS is a new, frontier opening mission that envisions assessing habitability on Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, allowing humanity to expand its horizons.
In 2028, the The SILENUS spacecraft will be launched from Earth, arriving at Enceladus 13 years later. There it will launch four penetrators to the moon's surface to collect data and send it back home to Earth.
*Specifications were made based on current technology used in aerospace missions.
The chosen design consists of a launched spacecraft which will orbit Enceladus upon arrival. This spacecraft, referred to as the orbiter, carries four small penetrators which it will release towards Enceladus’ surface.
The orbiter is modeled closely after previous successful missions. The orbiter for SILENUS is modeled after Cassini with infrastructure to specifically study Enceladus. Compared to Cassini, the largest difference is the use of solar panels as power source.
The four penetrators are designed to impact with the surface of Enceladus to characterize the seismic activity of Enceladus.
The instrument suite of the penetrators will each include one seismometer to measure ground motions, protective layers from moon's harsh environment, power source, and an antenna to relay back to the orbiter spacecraft.
Penetration site characterization is important for all mission concepts. Sites are selected to achieve the scientific objectives while minimizing the risk to the penetrators.
Our final mission architecture calls for four penetration sites, one in the north hemisphere and 3 in the areas of greatest scientific significance, namely the South Polar Terrain (known as the Tiger Stripes).
Total Mission Duration: around 313 Months (14.5 years)
Science Operation Mission: around 1 year and 10 days