An Interstellar Submarine for NASA!

It's not every day that NASA reaches out to me help them with a project. Actually, it's never happened. If it did, you definitely would have known about it before now.

Well, what's exciting is that this has actually happened and I'm really stoked to be working with the team at NASA's COMPASS facility to create a functional replica of a submarine that they're planning on sending to Titan, one of Saturn's moons, on or about the year 2030.

The project will involve dropping the submarine via one of NASA's aeroshells into an ocean on Titan called Ligea Mare (better known as the Kraken Sea). Once there, the submarine will autonomously explore the moon's methane oceans, broadcasting back data to NASA for review.

Here is a link to an article on the project that NBC News put together:

Unfortunately, we're working with a very tight schedule as the Canadian Discovery Channel will be filming a documentary on the project on June 13th, which is only a very short period of time away. The plan right now is for me to transport the sub to the COMPASS facility in person and operate the sub for the filming crew.

What I was given to work with was a very small, very rough and very fragile 3D print of the hull. The actual submarine they'll send will be about 2m in diameter (let's say 6.5 feet for you Americans out there). This print was about 12" long.

I determined that the size would be too small to make a quick buildup feasible, so I elected to re-print the boat on my own Taz 5 printer in a larger scale. This new print is 270mm wide and 372mm long (about 10.6 inches by 14.6 inches), giving me a lot more room to work with.

Rather than try to fight with actuating the four thruster arms that the real sub will have, those features will be cosmetic on this replica and propulsion will be supplied via a pair of pumps that exit out the rear, one for the port side and one for the starboard. In this manner, the boat can be steered like a tank with one stick for turning left and the other for right. A pump ballast system will offer depth control. I'll also be trying to engineer a pneumatic cylinder to extend and retract the sensor arm on the top of the craft. This will pose another set of challenges in terms of trimming the boat for surfaced and submerged operations, but I'll fight that battle when I get to that point.

At this point, I've completed the 3D print of the new hull, joined the two halves and worked to sand and smooth the finish to something much smoother. I'm going with a sealed cylinder for the battery and control systems. It will house the following components:

-MM10 magnetic on/off switch

-twin 10A mini ESC's

-three pneumatic air pumps

-pneumatic solenoid valve

-6 channel receiver

Lots of work left to do, particularly as I need to travel for work all of next week. It is going to be a busy couple of weekends to complete the build, get it trimmed out and functioning perfectly, and be ready to leave for Ohio on the 12th.

More soon!


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