Standard penetrator sampling systems were designed in order to allow for sampling via penetrators to produce a full set of sample acquisitions including volatile liquids, fine powders, and solid fragments. A gravity harpoon sampler has been designed with a removable tip and a quick coupling. The separation allows for sample handling and eliminates sample cross-contamination. Also, this design allows for multiple use of the penetrator body, which is the largest and heaviest part of the penetrator, while allowing for multiple changes of the light-mass, penetrator tip to avoid sample cross-contamination.

The penetrator tip design has been improved by adding a spring trap to retain the sample, as well as a means for connecting to a quick coupling. Quick connect tips have been demonstrated in a sample handling carousel. The penetrator was released and rewound and the tips were released into a circular platter for rotation into instrument stations. The pyro-harpoon sampler was fabricated and tested with a NASA Standard Initiator (NSI) pyrotechnic charge. Initial tests collected cryogenic ice, but removal of the small pyro-harpoon from the ice was difficult. A brass metal sheath was then fitted over the harpoon tip, and removal from the ice was greatly alleviated by leaving the sheath in the ice. Quartz windows in the tips allow direct optical and spectral imaging and gas chromatographymass spectrometer (GCMS) pyrolysis, and were found to survive impact. All systems were successfully tested by dropping into sand and into cryogenic ice.

This work was done by Stewart Sherrit, Jack A. Jones, and Mircea Badescu of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Quick-Connect Windowed Non-Stick Penetrator Tips for Rapid Sampling

(reference NPO-45861) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the March, 2009 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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