When it's completed, the spaceship-like underwater vessel, the SeaOrbiter, will become the first ocean lab where researchers can live 24/7 over long periods of time.

It's the Starship Enterprise of the sea, exploring parts of the ocean where no man has gone before.

The $43 million SeaOrbiter project is the result of a 30-year research and design process.

Created by sea architect Jacques Rougerie and guided by experts like Jean-Michel Cousteau and former NASA chief Daniel Goldin, the vessel will hold a crew of up to 22 people when it launches.

Though researchers onboard will likely spend most of their time underwater, you couldn't possibly miss the SeaOrbiter if you passed by it in the ocean. About 90 feet of the 190-foot structure will tower above the waterline.

The vessel drifts with currents, relying on renewable energy from the sun, waves, and wind for power. Like astronauts, the sea explorers aboard the SeaOrbiter need to be "physically fit and well-equipped for spontaneous exploration missions," according to Rougerie.

2013-11-21

This Starship Enterprise Of The Sea Will Launch Its Exploration In 2016

The SeaOrbiter will allow researchers to swim into parts of the deep ocean, where no one has gone before.

If you want to do deep sea ocean research today, you'll have to take a journey to the Florida Keys, where the world's last remaining underwater research lab, the Aquarius, is housed.

But that's soon about to change. When it's completed, the SeaOrbiter, a spaceship-like underwater vessel, will become the first ocean lab where researchers can live 24/7 over long periods of time. (The Aquarius, in comparison, goes on missions for 10 days on average.) It's the Starship Enterprise of the sea, exploring parts of the ocean where no man has gone before.

Image: Courtesy of SeaOrbiter

The $43 million SeaOrbiter project is the result of a 30-year research and design process. Created by sea architect Jacques Rougerie and guided by experts like Jean-Michel Cousteau and former NASA chief Daniel Goldin, the vessel will hold a crew of up to 22 people when it launches. Its first trip will be to Monaco, where Rougerie hopes that researchers will gather new details about the vast underwater areas surrounding the country.

He writes in an email: "The SeaOrbiter is the synthesis of everything that we have been able to do at sea: it is at the same time a moving habitat and a dynamic launching point for submarine research and exploration. It will not replace oceanographic boats or exploratory submarines. Instead, it’s another way to explore and better comprehend the underwater universe and bring human life at sea to another level on a 24/7 basis and over long periods."

Though researchers onboard will likely spend most of their time underwater, you couldn't possibly miss the SeaOrbiter if you passed by it in the ocean. About 90 feet of the 190-foot structure will tower above the waterline. The vessel drifts with currents, relying on renewable energy from the sun, waves, and wind for power. Like astronauts, the sea explorers aboard the SeaOrbiter need to be "physically fit and well-equipped for spontaneous exploration missions," according to Rougerie.

The SeaOrbiter is the first vessel that allows the crew to leave the boat from under the water's surface to explore the ocean, without taking into account the quality of the sea surface (this is because the underwater part of the vessel is stable enough to house the crew). It was built with what Rougerie calls a "new generation of recyclable aluminum" that's used in the aeronautics industry.

The project is currently crowdfunding 325,000 euros so it can begin construction in France in the Spring of 2014. So far, it has raised 44,000 euros with more than two months to go. If all goes well, construction will finish by the end of 2015, and the first underwater expedition will begin in spring 2016.

[Image: Courtesy of SeaOrbiter]

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12 Comments

  • James Knapp

    Have you considered underwater pioneering/colonization? I was under the impression that the seperation of unlike materials ( ie glass/metal) and the different expansion rates due to pressure under the ocean made this difficult under any real depth. I actually thought that this pressure might be overcome by creating reinforced honeycomb plates out of plastic, plexi-glass, or carbon. I believe the plastic/plexi-glass would make it possible to see the outside world of the ocean. The honeycomb shape plates would be welded together to create the outside perimeter or shell. The greater the pressure the smaller the honeycomb plate. On inside of the shell the carbon plastic would be used to create the walls, floors, and the conduits used to transport power, water, or waste. The power would be the simulated neucleur power as that of any neucleur submarine. From there the enviroment can then be designed. All other areas in the shell would also contribute to the honeycomb design.

  • Daniel Dogeanu

    I sense that this will be the basis of future cities and colonies living on water or even below it.

  • Chemechie

    It's a great idea - but where are they going to get the money to make this happen? Crowdfunding is a nice start, but something like this will costs 10's of millions of Euros. I believe it when I see it!

  • Air

    They should use v3's suncatcher that dynamically doubles as a solar panel/windmill in the shape of a flower with max solar output at cheaper price and less toxic elements used.

  • InklingBooks

    It's an interesting idea. As a kid, I was fascinated by Kon Tiki with its tale of drifting across the Pacific on a raft. I've often wondered why that's not done more often. If you want to study the sea, get down close to its surface and move with the currents.

    However, as another poster has noted, the SeaOrbiter is a raft with a 100-foot draft. It may be great out on the open ocean, but it'll be risky to take it somewhere a sudden storm could sudden push into shore. Something more like the U.S. Navy's RV Flip might be more practical.

    --Michael W. Perry, Untangling Tolkien

  • Misleading72727

    Better idea: inexpensive drones. Don't understand why funding for a billion dollar ship will accomplish more than thousands of automated drones for the same purpose, at the same cost, with much less risk.

  • MrKamikaze

    Very cool idea! just afraid that it having a 100ft draft and by the looks of it not every maneuverable that it will end up like the costa concordia.