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NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts

SWIM: Sensing with Independent Micro-swimmers (SWIM)

Active Technology Project
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Project Description

In the Sensing With Independent Micro-Swimmers (SWIM) concept, illustrated here, dozens of small robots would descend through the icy shell of a distant moon via a cryobot – depicted at left – to the ocean below. The project has received funding from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The SWIM system consists of scores of 100 cm^3-scale, 3D-printed swimming micro-robots (micro-swimmers) equipped with MEMS sensors, propelled by miniature actuators, and wirelessly communicating with ultrasound waves. The micro-swimmers are deployed individually or as a swarm from a single SESAME robot mothercraft, which has limited mobility once reaching / anchoring at the ocean-ice interface. SWIM enables active sampling of ocean water beyond the reach of the SESAME robot (increasing the chances of detecting biomarkers), as well as temporally- and spatially-distributed measurement of desired ocean properties, habitability metrics, and potential biomarkers (infeasible with a single robot). Together these capabilities will enable scientists to better characterize / understand the alien ocean’s composition and habitability.  

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