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Mobile Underwater Habitats (Terra Futura)

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Mobile Underwater Habitats were subsea crawlers that served as an outpost. They were really useful.

(Note: The background section of this page uses most of the same words as Terra Futura's page on subsea crawlers to save time.)

Background

The first autonomous underwater vehicle, or AUV, was developed in 1957 at the University of Washington. It was known as the Special Purpose Underwater Research Vehicle, or SPURV. This helped scientists learn more about ocean physics. Its successor, SPURV II, was launched in 1973 for the same purpose. At the same time, scientists from MIT were developing their own AUVs. So was the Soviet Union. Later AUVs had a wider range of applications. However, they could only operate for hours without a tether to a surface ship. The underwater glider changed that.

Underwater gliders could keep working for weeks or even months. The design dated back to the 1980s with Henry Stommel who was collaborated with DARPA at the time. A prototype was constructed in 2003 by Webb Research. In 2009, Rutgers built an underwater glider that took 221 days to cross the Atlantic. Underwater gliders flowed with the current, but used wings and buoyancy changes to maneuver. They also took advantage of thermal stratification. When the glider was near the surface, the wax in the engines expanded. In deeper water levels, the wax compressed. Both wings had antennae, so that when the underwater glider was at the surface one of the wings would go out of the water to receive GPS signals for navigation. In the early 21st century, the deepest an underwater glider ever went was 1,500 meters. Later models would go 3,300 meters. Batteries controlled the pitch and orientation and powered the sensors and radio. Underwater gliders provided valuable data on Earth's oceans. Later on, they would be used for oceans on other planets and moons. The technology was also used for the subsea crawler.

Subsea crawlers could be used for many jobs. They could be used in cable laying and maintenance, excavation, exploration, search and rescue, aquaculture, surveying, mine laying and removing, mining, maintenance, salvaging, construction, hauling, and weapons. Search and rescue was the most notable application. In South Korea, scientist built a six-legged crawler that sped up search and rescue after the Cheonan sinking incident. This was the first subsea crawler with legs. Control was done by communication cables in the early 21st century. Later versions were more autonomous and some were even manned. Manned crawlers had a variable buoyancy system to float. They were also modular to make them cheaper. Some had open-pressure systems. Others had closed pressure systems allowing them to operate at extreme depths.  There was the risk of explosive decompression in this case, so safety features were added in. Overtime, subsea crawlers gave way to mobile underwater habitats.

Description

Tech Level: 11

Mobile underwater habitats were mobile underwater outposts that could use underwater treads, wheels, or legs on the sea floor. They had a twofold purpose. The first purpose of an underwater mobile habitat was to operate as a mobile laboratory. It could explore the seabed. It had an open-pressure system so that it would be easier to go between water and air. Therefore, it had to stay in the shallows. Its second purpose was to make building an underwater habitat easier. Mobile underwater habitats could be linked together to form a larger habitat. This made them easier and faster to build and reduced the cost. This technology also led to the mobile drilling platform.

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