Staff Training / Setup
Principal Investigator: Craig Cooper
April 20 — 23
This first Aquarius saturation mission for 2009 will be a combination of staff training and a "shakedown dive" for the habitat and Life Support Buoy (LSB), following four months of maintenance on all the topside and underwater support equipment. This involves reinstalling and testing all the equipment that make up the complete underwater habitat system, as well as its wireless link to the shore based Watch Desk. Once all checklists and pre-mission tests are performed, a short four to five-day saturation dive will be conducted to fully test the habitat systems for the longer 10-14 day missions to follow. During this mission, hands-on training is provided in a setting that does not have the distractions of a typical science mission, with staffing made up of two senior habitat technicians and two other staff "in-training." While the Center makes extensive use of manuals and other training documents, there is only so much that can be learned before actual real-time experience is required. We run training missions as full saturations, but they are usually shorter duration. Full decompression is required and is an important part of the training exercise, with staff taking turns "driving the habitat" during the 16.5 hour decompression required before surfacing.
During this mission, staff will not only train on existing gas, electrical, and computer/video/electronic systems, but they will conduct outside maintenance and cleaning of habitat systems. Two other important tasks will be accomplished during this mission. First and hugely important for continued operations of Aquarius, will be conducting our annual and special periodical survey for our American Bureau of Shipping (ABS)certification. ABS surveyors will be on site during the mission, with full video inspections of the exterior and interior of Aquarius conducted under the direction of the surveyors. ABS will also be reviewing maintenance and annual calibration documents, as well as NDT hull thickness readings taken recently by a certified ultrasonic inspector. Second will be the set up of a new SE Crossroads waystation, located 300 feet southeast of Aquarius. This station will have the communications and high pressure fill station capabilities as other waystations, but will also have "hookah" capabilities that will allow habitat technicians to expand their range to conduct u/w maintenance on the Elk River Station, located 600' southeast of Aquarius in 115 fsw. This station will also offer new tasking possibilities for the Navy divers on the SRDD missions following in May 2009.