IceCube Upgrade

Scientific Objectives

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory is the first detector of its kind, designed to observe the cosmos from deep within the South Pole ice. Encompassing a cubic kilometer of ice, IceCube searches for nearly massless subatomic particles called neutrinos.
On June 25, 2019, the National Science Foundation (NSF) approved $23M to upgrade the IceCube detector, extending its scientific capabilities to lower energies and thus enabling IceCube to reach neutrino energies that overlap with the energy ranges of smaller existing neutrino detectors worldwide. The IceCube Upgrade project will introduce seven
strings of optical modules at the bottom center of the 86 existing strings, adding more than 700 new and enhanced optical modules to the 5,160 sensors already embedded in the ice beneath the geographic South Pole.

The Enhanced Hot Water Drill equipment from IceCube construction will be resurrected to support drilling operations for the Upgrade. Much of this equipment has been long-term stored at South Pole since completion of IceCube construction in 2010-11, and some subsystems need major upgrade work and/or will become replaced completely.

This initiative will deploy 750 advanced photodetectors and calibration devices inside the existing IceCube detector. The new instrumentation will improve our understanding of how the light emitted by neutrino interactions in the ice travels throughout the detector, effectively bringing the neutrinos into sharper focus. The IceCube Upgrade will thus allow us to increase the sensitivity of the present telescope. The sharper resolution achieved through the upgrade can be retroactively applied to data already acquired and stored during the first decade of IceCube’s operation, immediately providing a major improvement in IceCube’s sensitivity.

In addition, new sensors will provide a unique opportunity to measure the properties of neutrinos, the least understood of the fundamental particles discovered to date. Cosmic ray interactions in Earth’s atmosphere provide a copious natural source of neutrinos. As neutrinos travel through space, they change from one type to another—a purely quantum-mechanical process known as neutrino oscillation. The IceCube Upgrade will provide the first precision measurement of the number of tau neutrinos appearing as a result of these oscillations. A measurement inconsistent with the poorly constrained current theory would be a smoking gun pointing to undiscovered types of neutrinos or to new physics.

                  What Is IceCube Upgrade?    Mapping the Universe    International Collaborators

Field Seasons

Field Season 1 (2023-24)

Subsystems Repair and Refit

→  IceCube Upgrade team returns to work in Antarctica

→  Cargo deliveries and ASC support provided during FS0 allow work to begin immediately

→  Drill Team Population is 11, entire team will work on one daytime shift


  • Drillers will occupy two main work locations
  • Cryo and Seasonal Equipment Site (SES) across ski-way
  • Complete the repairs and upgrades identified in the 2019-2020 season
  • Assemble and evaluate entire Enhanced Hot Water Drill (EHWD) at SES
  • Commission Independent Firn Drill (IFD)
  • Commission Antarctic Rodwell Apparatus (ARA) Drill
  • Integration work on IceCube Generators


  • System connected together and fully integrated
  • TOS motion control
  • Setup TOS over Rodwell firn hole
  • Hose/Cable synchronization tuning and demonstration
  • Hole operations training
  • 12 days
  • Full system wet testing
  • 200 gpm (full system flow), full pressure, cold
  • 50 gpm (full MHP flow), full pressure, hot
  • Full pressure, hot, through hose reel
  • 9 days
  • Objectives
  • Piecewise validation of whole system
  • High fidelity on-the-job training


  • Drill


Mechanical Refurbishment