NASA/NOAA/NAVY/USCG/MMS scientific/military multi-purpose sub needed post BP spill

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by Stephen Ditmore, Jun 4, 2010.

  1. Stephen Ditmore
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    Stephen Ditmore Senior Member

    What was it about the Star Ship Enterprise that captured people's imaginations and made them trekkies? Here was a multi-purpose exploratory vessel, armed, yet replete with scientific capability as well.

    Why does no submarine exist with similar multi-mission capability? If President Obama wanted to take his own team of experts and travel to where the BP oil spill is actually taking place, does the US Navy have the right vessel? NO! It should.

    Please post your thoughts! A quick Google search produced the following links:

    Would it be possible to build such a multi-function craft as a modification of an existing military submarine class, or to retro-fit an existing military sub -- or would what I propose require a blank-sheet-of-paper design? Who should be the players in its development? Is this a better use of funds than manned spaceflight? Should journalists be on board reporting from beneath the waves?
  2. daiquiri
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    daiquiri Engineering and Design

    Generally speaking, multi-purpose machines are not optimized for any of its purposes. It is a give and take process between various requirements which, ultimately, produce a design which stands somewhere in the middle without excelling in anything. That's briefly why.

    To use your example, star ship Enterprise would have been a better combat ship without the burden of scientific crew and equipment. And vice-versa, would be a better scientific platform if it could do away with weapons, and use the freed internal space for scientific payload. Only in science-fiction movies can such a hybrid contraption win a battle against a, say, Klingon spaceship designed only for fighting battles. ;)

    Getting back in space and time, in the case of this miserably story about oil and greed, it would be much better to start from scratch and design a sub for only one single function: to stuff that damn oil tube with whatever material necessary to stop the Earth bleeding. Imho.
  3. Stephen Ditmore
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    Stephen Ditmore Senior Member

    Good point, Daiquiri. But I have some counter-arguments.

    The United States Navy currently operates about 75 nuclear submarines. Is it necessary that all 75 be designed to either win a battle with another sub or to launch an attack against continental targets? Is it necessary that all 75 do their utmost to keep their locations secret? According to future threats to and challenges faced by submarines may be asymmetric in nature, from a range of sources. So perhaps we should have one submarine that can do things the others can't so that it can deal with unanticipated threats and crises as well as anticipated ones.

    Some of the military subs and other vessels out there are low capability vessels, in some cases operated by third world countries (and perhaps, in the future, pirates or other rogue elements). Coast Guard vessels typically carry arms for their own defense, but insufficient to counter a full military attack by a sophisticated enemy. These vessels serve very real functions, just different ones. Seems to me the vessel I propose should be able to provide for its own defense and the possibility it may be employed in interdicting pirates, rescue work, etc.

    Why should the proposed vessel be associated with the US Navy? Because The Navy has facilities, trained personnel, and know-how. It has an interest in good PR, and it has an interest in expanding its knowledge of the ocean environment in which it operates. I'm impressed, after reading through, that the Navy is already incorporating ideas that make subs more versatile. Building a more research oriented one jointly with other agencies just seems like a logical next step.

    Industry, government, and institutions of research & learning will continue to develop and deploy deep water equipment of various kinds for specific purposes. But it makes sense to have a versatile mothership for that equipment, one that is highly adaptable to different missions, and one that can serve as a platform for original research & basic science. An EXPLORATORY vessel SHOULD be versatile, and as the best informed scientists at the top of their marine research fields will tell you, there remains a tremendous amount we DON'T know about the sea. So let purpose built robotic drones explore space. The time has come to deploy at least one fully crewed multi-mission deep water submersible to explore the watery 2/3 of the earth.
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  4. Stumble
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    Stumble Senior Member

    The US Navy actually does operate a fleet of submersables capable of reaching the type of depths necessary to reach the oil spill. All of the Alvin class subs can... But what I think you are suggesting is a nuclear class sub capable of operating at these depths, not a scientific research vessel.

    Not that it isn't possible but for comparison sake, the modern class IV nuclear attack subs have a maximum operating depth of 1000 feet. To operate at the depths of the oil leak you would need to increase that to at least 6000 feet, which would still not be deep enough for many of the very deep rigs in the gulf, which can exceede 10,000 feet.

    I am sure it is possible to build a large sub capable at operating at those depths, but I am not sure what it could do that the mini-subs haven't already tried.
  5. mark775

    mark775 Guest

    "maximum (unclassified) operating depth of 1000 feet" - it's probably more.
    I agree with you.
  6. hoytedow
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    hoytedow Carbon Based Life Form

  7. Stephen Ditmore
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    Stephen Ditmore Senior Member

    Yes, I may be influenced by science fiction (incl. Jules Vern). But so is NASA. All of the priority setting we do is influenced by culture. Was there a practical reason for John Kennedy to want to put a man on the moon? In hindsight, yes, but at the time it was questionable, as was the feasibility.

    Despite greater pressures at greater depths, Alvin and other oceanographic subs manage to have windows, unlike the military type.

    If you'll allow me to re-frame a little in response to your feedback: I wonder whether the time has come to build an oceanographic sub that operates without surface ship support. The range, instrumentation, and capabilities of the surface ship would be built into the sub, including overnight accommodations & provisioning for a month or more at sea. That done, what would it take to make such a sub a multi-function, multi-mission exploratory vessel (much as the Space Shuttle was a multi-function, multi-mission orbiter)?
  8. Ramius41
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    Ramius41 Junior Member

    M O N E Y ! :D
  9. Submarine Tom

    Submarine Tom Previous Member

    Yes, of course money but also, perhaps, to take the person out of the vehicle.

    What's that... it's already been done?

    Oh my... astonishing!

  10. Stephen Ditmore
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    Stephen Ditmore Senior Member

    My contention: underwater is a better place for humans than Mars, so this project should take the place of manned space exploration for time being. Where The Navy comes into it is: we've already spent billions developing manned submarines.

    A development in autonomous underwater vehicles I think very much worth following is underwater gliders: Let the progress continue on both fronts! I just think it's time for there to be one mother ship in existence that's itself a submersible - not limited to the surface.
  11. Doug Lord
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    Doug Lord Flight Ready

    It would comfort me no end to know "we" had a purpose built sub with little mini subs that could go down there and INDEPENDENTLY look at this site-and all rig sites. How do we know what's really going on?
    I grew up on Pensacola Beach and ,man, that is the whitest sand anywhere.
    I raced dinghies from Miami to New Orleans as a kid and took frequent trips from Pensacola Beach to New Orleans in our family home-a 47' power boat.
    Great times that imbued me with a love of the water,the coast and sailing. Thinking of it being sullied by this kind of unbridled corporate greed makes me sick.
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    FAST FRED Senior Member

    "I may be influenced by science fiction (incl. Jules Vern). But so is NASA."

    That might have been true during the JFK era.

    but today NASA is simply another bunch of bureau rats attempting to hang onto their jobs as ignorant politicos carve them up to feed local "jobs " for re election votes .

    The Gulf problem would not exist , IF the gov had funded the Fire Booms which are their responsibility..


  13. ancient kayaker
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    ancient kayaker aka Terry Haines

    Thoughts: the Star Ship Enterprise was a multi-purpose exploratory vessel, armed but also with scientific capability. This makes sense for the type of mission, exploration far from support with the potential for hostile encounters. Early exploration was often undertaken in naval ships for the same reason. With the advent of radio and intervention capability only days (or hours) away it no longer makes as much sense.

    Speaking of multi-purpose requirements, an exploration ship will be entirely different from a ship designed to tackle emergencies, and each emergency is different, a hurricane here, an underwater oil leak there, so vessels built to tackle emergencies tend to be specialized. I suppose that's why there are never enough of them and they are always someplace else when needed.

    A vessel designed to handle a broad spectrum of underwater emergency needs to get on site quickly. A manned submarine would need to be nuclear to have the speed and range to arrive before a surface ship and also have the endurance to be at sea ready to go at all times. It would likely be too large to be able to safely handle many of the jobs it would encounter, we certainly would not want one hovering around an oil rig, so it would still need ROVs. It would need to be compatible with Panama and Suez, not sure if most subs are.

    To the extent that a small ROV can do the job instead of a manned submersible, it is the better, cheaper and safer choice. If light enough it could be flown to where it is needed; the same is not true of its support ship but if it had a support facility that could also be flown and put on an available ship already at site, maybe that is an option.

    The advantage of a larger vessel would be mass and power, but specialized robotic end tooling can be designed to get around such shortcomings of smaller vessels.

    With satellite communications, are the trained people really needed on deck except for the TV cameras? (Don't know, just asking).

    I am surprised at the lack of preparation and seemingly ad hoc nature of the remediation efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. For an enterprise involving billions on a daily basis it would seem little enough for millions to have been spent in preparation for such an event, and a few hundred thou of analysis to anticipate what might go wrong with such a structure as a floating oil rig. Still, I suppose operator errors, fire and sinking are such rare things, only a few per day, that the designers just didn't imagine it would happen. They have been very lucky with the weather so far.
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