RedWater: A Rodwell System to Extract Water from Martian Ice Deposits

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


The ability to mine ice water in situ is of vital importance to enable future manned exploration of the solar system. In the past decade, orbital measurements have revealed that a third of the Martian surface contains shallow ground ice. Mars reconnaissance orbiter (MRO) shallow subsurface radar (SHARAD) data indicates the presence of debris-covered glaciers as well as buried ice sheets in the Arcadia Planitia (30°N–45°N) that are up to 170 m thick, consist of nearly pure ice, and are covered by at most 20 m of overburden. This data supports the implementation of two proven terrestrial technologies—coiled tube (CT) drilling and a Rodriguez well (RodWell)—for drilling and water extraction on Mars. Honeybee’s RedWater system combines these two technologies into one by first using a CT drilling approach to create a hole, and then, once the hole is made to depth, using the coiled tubing left in the hole as a conduit for water extraction. Models for system performance in this mode have been refined from a combination of U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) research, data collected from Antarctic RodWells, and Honeybee testing. Honeybee plans to validate RedWater’s mechanism designs and extraction models through thermal-vacuum testing to TRL5 in 2020.

Publication Title

Earth and Space 2021