Dr Dirk Heinen researches melting probes and their navigation systems. Melting probes are used to penetrate and explore glaciers and ice shelves and to reach underlying subglacial lakes. Currently, the melting probes are used in terrestrial analogue missions with the aim of being able to explore subglacial oceans of the icy moons Europa and Enceladus in situ in the future.
Since 2010, Dirk Heinen has been conducting research at the III. Physikalischen Institut B of RWTH Aachen University. In his doctoral thesis, he worked on an acoustic localisation system for the EnEx-IceMole melting probe. The EnEx-IceMole was developed as part of the Enceladus Explorer Initiative 'EnEx' of the German Space Agency at DLR in cooperation with six universities. Together with colleagues from the University of Applied Sciences Aachen, he took a subglacial water sample with the EnEx-IceMole at Blood Falls, on the Taylor Glacier in Antarctica, in 2014. Since then, Dirk Heinen has been developing and researching various melting probes and acoustic instrumentation. Since 2018, he has mainly been researching the TRIPLE-IceCraft. The TRIPLE-IceCraft is a melting probe to explore ice bodies several hundred metres thick. In spring 2023, he will lead the deployment of the TRIPLE-IceCraft melting probe in the Antarctic Ekstrom Ice Shelf at Neumayer Station III.