New joint pro­ject TRIPLE-MoDo – Bre­men con­sor­tium de­vel­ops in­nov­at­ive dock­ing sys­tem for un­der­wa­ter ro­bots

How can in­ac­cess­ible places on the Earth, such as the deep sea, as well as those on other plan­ets be in­vest­ig­ated? Ex­treme goals present ex­treme chal­lenges for the tech­no­logy used. These are more ser­i­ous than just cor­ro­sion or res­ist­ance to un­usual pres­sures. For ex­ample, the new tech­no­lo­gical solu­tions will en­able com­mu­nic­a­tion with and sup­ply of en­ergy to un­der­wa­ter ro­bots by way of an in­nov­at­ive dock­ing sys­tem. To­ward this end, a con­sor­tium of three Bre­men part­ners have ini­ti­ated the re­search and de­vel­op­ment pro­ject TRIPLE-MoDo.

The TRIPLE project line logo

Mission scenario on Jupiter's moon: The ice melting probe serves the autonomous underwater vehicle as a base station for data and energy exchange. (MARUM – Zentrum für Marine Umweltwissenschaften, Universität Bremen)

The presumed amount of water on Jupiter’s moon is about twice that of the Earth. (Kevin Hand (JPL/Caltech), Jack Cook (WHOI), Howard Perlman (USGS))

Model drawing of the autonomous underwater vehicle nanoAUV. It has a length of 0.45 meters. (MARUM – Zentrum für Marine Umweltwissenschaften, Universität Bremen; Christian Engler)

Ex­plor­a­tion of our world's oceans as well as ex­tra­ter­restrial oceans re­quires ro­botic sys­tems that can op­er­ate in­de­pend­ently and for ex­ten­ded peri­ods of time un­der­wa­ter. A Bre­men con­sor­tium has be­gun work­ing on an in­nov­at­ive dock­ing sys­tem for this pur­pose as part of the pro­ject TRIPLE-MoDo (“Tech­no­lo­gies for Rapid Ice Pen­et­ra­tion and Subgla­cial Lake Ex­plor­a­tion – Mo­bile dock­ing”). The pro­ject part­ners in­clude DSI Aerospace Tech­no­logy GmbH, the Ro­bot­ics In­nov­a­tion Cen­ter of the Ger­man Re­search Cen­ter for Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence, and MARUM – the Cen­ter for Mar­ine En­vir­on­mental Sci­ences at the Uni­versity of Bre­men. The pro­ject is be­ing fin­anced by the Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion of the Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter in Bonn.

The planned sys­tem will al­low an autonom­ous un­der­wa­ter vehicle (AUV) to dock with an un­der­wa­ter sta­tion in or­der to trans­fer data it has col­lec­ted and to re­charge its bat­ter­ies, and thus to re­main un­der­wa­ter for ex­ten­ded peri­ods of time. In or­der to over­come the chal­len­ging is­sues en­countered with dock­ing in deep wa­ters, the part­ners are us­ing com­pon­ents from the field of soft ro­bot­ics. These com­pon­ents are noted for their great flex­ib­il­ity and their abil­ity to gently ab­sorb col­li­sions.

The TRIPLE-MoDo pro­ject is one of sev­eral ini­ti­at­ives that make up the over­arch­ing TRIPLE pro­ject line in the DLR's Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion. The mis­sion of the pro­ject line is to de­velop an in­tel­li­gent ex­plor­a­tion sys­tem that can be used to carry out sci­entific activ­it­ies in wa­ters that lie be­neath ice. The pro­jec­ted sys­tem con­sists of a fully autonom­ous very small sub­mers­ible vehicle, called a nanoAUV, a par­tially autonom­ous melt­ing probe that melts the ice and serves as a trans­port sys­tem for the AUV, and an as­tro­bi­o­lo­gical labor­at­ory (As­tro­Bi­o­Lab) to ana­lyze li­quid and sed­i­ment samples. The melt­ing probe also serves as a fixed un­der­wa­ter sta­tion for the sub­mers­ible to trans­fer data and en­ergy.

This in­nov­at­ive sys­tem prom­ises to be of great value for plan­et­ary mis­sions as well as for near-Earth space ap­plic­a­tions. The in­terest on the part of space re­search is to even­tu­ally util­ize this kind of sys­tem, when it has been de­ployed and tested on the Earth, for the ex­plor­a­tion of oceans on other plan­ets and bod­ies, such as Jupiter's moon Europa. It is spec­u­lated that hy­dro­thermal seeps may be present in wa­ter depths of 100 kilo­met­ers be­neath the ice cover of Jupiter’s moon, which, be­cause of the as­so­ci­ated heat flow and in­flux of min­er­als, could sup­port life even in those dark and cold re­gions.

“Euro­pa’s pre­sumed ocean con­tains an amount of wa­ter that is equal to about twice that found on planet Earth,” ex­plains the pro­ject leader Dr. Chris­toph Wald­mann of MARUM. “The ex­cit­ing ques­tion is whether there are traces of past or present life forms in these ex­tra­ter­restrial oceans.”

The fully de­veloped sys­tem should be com­pleted by 2027 and tested dur­ing a demon­stra­tion mis­sion to the Ant­arc­tic re­gion with close co­oper­a­tion by mar­ine and space sci­ent­ists.

More information about the project and the participating partners:
DSI Aerospace Technologie GmbH:
MARUM – the Cen­ter for Mar­ine En­vir­on­mental Sci­ences at the Uni­versity of Bre­men:
Ger­man Re­search Cen­ter for Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence (DFKI), Robotics Innovation Center:

Dr. Chris­toph Wald­mann
Head Co­ordin­ator of TRIPLE-nanoAUV 1
MARUM – Cen­ter for Mar­ine En­vir­on­mental Sci­ences, Uni­versity of Bre­men
Tele­phone: +49 421 218 65606

Dr.-Ing. Jochen Rust
Pro­ject Co­ordin­ator of TRIPLE-MoDo
DSI Aerospace Tech­no­lo­gie GmbH
Tele­phone: +49 421 596969 35

Dipl.-Ing. Miguel Bande Fir­vida
Team Leader TRIPLE-nanoAUV
Tele­phone: +49 421 17845 5064


last updated 19.02.2021
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