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Aquarius Undersea Laboratory

Aquarius is a three–part system, including:

  1. the LSB
  2. a 120 ton baseplate, which provides a stable platform upon which Aquarius is mounted
  3. an 82 ton “habitat” (underwater laboratories are often referred to as habitats) that provides living and working space for a six person crew.

Habitat

The habitat itself is a 43 foot long by 9 foot diameter steel cylinder that can support operations to depths of 120 feet. 

The habitat includes:

  • a seawater interface in a “Wet Porch”
  • two pressure locks known as the Entry Lock and Main Lock, sized at 500 and 1400 cubic feet, respectively. 

Lab

Approximately 400 square feet of living and laboratory space is available for operations and science.

The air-conditioned lab is equipped with:

  • six bunks
  • freshwater shower
  • toilet
  • instant hot water
  • microwave and refrigerator.

Aquanauts remain in contact with shore base and the outside world through wireless internet, cellular telephones, video conferencing equipment and VHF radio.

The fully equipped underwater laboratory consists of several components. The Aquarius habitat is an 82 ton doublelock pressure vessel that measures approximately 43 feet long by 9 feet n diameter and is divided into three compartments, each serving a specific function. Scientists live and work inside the habitat when they are not conducting research outside on the reefs.

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Aquarius is made to withstand the pressure of ocean depths to 120 feet deep. Presently, Aquarius is located in a sand patch adjacent to deep coral reefs in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, at a depth of 63 feet. The laboratory is attached to the baseplate that positions the underwater habitat about 13 feet off the bottom. This means that the working depth of those inside the laboratory is about 50 feet deep. Located inside the 82–ton, 43 x 20 x 16.5–foot underwater laboratory are all the comforts of home: Using Aquarius as a base for research diving expeditions definitely has its advantages.

Aquarius can be used in a variety of capacities depending upon project requirements. No matter how the lab is used, continual power and telecommunications capabilities make Aquarius an ideal platform for research projects, advanced sensor development, longterm monitoring of coastal oceans and coral reefs and education and outreach. Web cameras operate during missions with cameras inside and outside Aquarius. Live broadcasts (webcasts and special videoconferencing opportunities) are frequently conducted that involve schools, museums, and aquariums across the country.

Habitat Specifications

Aquarius Siting: Conch Reef, Florida Keys (Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary)

Distance From Islamorada shore base: 15.4 km (8.5 nm)

Distance offshore: 9 km (5.4 nm)

Hatch depth/storage depth: 14 m (46 fsw) 35 psi

Depth of bottom directly below Aquarius: 18 m (60 fsw)

Aquarius weight: 82 ton doublelock pressure vessel

Baseplate weight: 120 tons

Dimensions: 14 meters long by 3meters in diameter (46 ft x 10 ft)

Crew: 4 scientists and 2 technicians

Amenities: kitchen facilities that include a microwave, instant hot water dispenser, refrigerator, sink, dining and work areas; computer work stations and Internet access.

Telecommunications:

  • 1 GB Ethernet from Aquarius to the LSB via umbilical.
  • From LSB to Shore Motorola PTP 600 series wireless bridge (maximum: 180 Mbps; minimum 75 Mbps).
  • A DS3 (50Mbps) connection to the world from base
  • Multiple video feeds via web cams in and outside Aquarius
    • Internal video feeds (3): Wet porch, entry lock and main lock
    • External video feeds (4): Gazebo, starboard aft, (2) repositionable
    • Polycom, Skype and Google video conferencing capabilities

Diver underwater communications

  • Diver to diver
  • Diver to Aquarius
  • Diver to Shore
Independent life support: 72hours minimum power, high pressure air, oxygen, and carbon dioxide removal
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