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  • 2017

    Mission 4 - U.S. Navy Operational Readiness Training Mission

    Leg 1: July 12-17
    Leg 2: July 21-26

    U.S. Navy divers practiced an operational readiness training (scenario) about core drilling that lead to the collapse of a structure after an earthquake struck. Debris was spread out over a large area on the ocean bottom with the help of rebreathers, consistent with scenario requirements.

  • 2016

    Mission 1 - USN-SRDD (1)
    Principal Investigator: John Theriot
    Saturation: April 12-16
    Total Days: 5


    Mission 2 - USN-SRDD (2)
    Principal Investigator: John Theriot
    Saturation: April 20-24
    Total Days: 5

  • 2015

    Mission 2 - USN-SRDD (1)
    Principal Investigator: John Theriot
    Saturation: August 24-29
    Total Days: 6


    Mission 3 - USN-SRDD (2)
    Principal Investigator: John Theriot
    Saturation: September 1-5
    Total Days: 5

  • 2014

    Mission 4 - USN-SRDD (1)
    Principal Investigator: Ray Baker
    Saturation: September 15-19
    Total Days: 5


    Mission 5 - USN-SRDD (2)
    Principal Investigator: Ray Baker
    Saturation: September 21-25
    Total Days: 5

  • 2011

    US NAVY Saturation
    Principal Investigator: US NAVY
    Training: November 1 — 4
    Saturation: November 8 — 17

    Aquarius November 2011 Saturation Mission will involve training for U.S. Navy Divers. Two teams of four U.S. Navy Divers will each saturate in Aquarius for 5 day missions along with two Habitat Technicians from the Aquarius team. Navy topside divers will integrate with the Aquarius team supporting saturation operations and undertaking habitat related maintenance.

    This mission continues the U.S. Navy's long involvement in saturation diving from underwater habitats. Saturation diving techniques were first developed by the U.S. Navy and were deployed by the Navy in the 1960's Sealab projects. Today, a strong partnership exists between the Navy and NOAA's Aquarius program with Navy divers and Diving Medical Officers supporting Aquarius operations throughout the year and Navy saturation missions occurring on a regular basis.

  • 2009

    NURC/Navy SRDD Development Mission 1 2009
    Principal Investigator: Craig Cooper
    May 4 — 8

    The NOAA Undersea Research Center (NURC) at the University of North Carolina Wilmington is working for the fourth straight year on a saturation project with the Navy's Specialized Research Diving Detachment (SRDD) to conduct two five-day Aquarius underwater laboratory saturation missions- utilizing Underwater Breathing Apparatus (UBA), or rebreathers, for aquanaut excursions.

    Rebreathers were used in early Navy habitat saturation diving in the 60's, and from NOAA saturation habitats in the 70's, but since that time, excursion diving has been done almost exclusively on open circuit scuba. There is a continuing interest by the NOAA Undersea Research Program (NURP) in the use of rebreathers from Aquarius, and the Navy, because of their extensive background in using rebreathers, is the logical choice to demonstrate the feasibility related to rebreather maintenance in a saturation environment, and their use on working dives. Four missions were conducted in 2006, two more in 2007, and two more in 2008, using Navy MK16 rebreathers to conduct work from Aquarius, all with successful results for rebreather performance and work accomplished by the divers. Six NURC Aquarius staff divers are now trained on the Ambient Pressure Diving's (APD) Inspiration rebreather, and have amassed 400-500 hours collectively on the Inspiration. During this mission, as we have on several missions in 2008, onboard habitat technicians will be doing all their exterior "hookah" dives using rebreathers. With all the Navy divers and Aquarius staff diving rebreathers, NURC will be able to get a good read on air consumption for a saturation mission that uses no SCUBA for any of the aquanaut diving.

    Further mission objectives include:

    • Maintenance of rebreathers by aquanauts during the mission, both planned pre- and post-dive servicing and checks, and unscheduled repairs; Increased bottom times between "fills" over open circuit scuba.
    • Logistics of supplying consumables for rebreathers such as CO2 absorbent/canisters, Oxygen and diluent gases.
    • Effort to increase the capacity of Aquarius' subsea HP air flask farm.
    • Installation of the Elk River Station (ERS), an important waystation for upcoming science missions;
    • Evaluate use of the NURP developed REPEX tables, or modifications of the original tables developed for repetitive habitat excursions under NURP Technical Reports 88-1A & B.
    • Results from the previous eight saturation missions with SRDD divers have proven the feasibility of using rebreathers from Aquarius, with NURC now using the APD's Inspiration as a vital tool for Aquarius operations. The final step in the process will be to review the possibility of using the rebreathers on NEEMO lunar analog and selected science missions in the future.
  • 2008

    NURC/Navy SRDD Development Mission 1 2008
    Principal Investigator: Craig Cooper, NURC/UNCW
    Mission: April 15 — 19

    The NOAA Undersea Research Center (NURC) at the University of North Carolina Wilmington is working for the third straight year on a saturation project with the Navy’s Specialized Research Diving Detachment (SRDD) to conduct two Aquarius underwater laboratory saturation missions- utilizing Underwater Breathing Apparatus (UBA), or rebreathers, for aquanaut excursions.

    Rebreathers were used in early Navy habitat saturation diving in the 60’s, and from NOAA saturation habitats in the 70’s, but since that time, excursion diving has been done almost exclusively on open circuit scuba. There is a continuing interest by the NOAA Undersea Research Program (NURP) in the use of rebreathers from Aquarius, and the Navy, because of their extensive background in using rebreathers, is the logical choice to demonstrate the feasibility related to rebreather maintenance in a saturation environment, and their use on working dives. Four missions were conducted in 2006 and two more in 2007 using Navy MK16 rebreathers to conduct work from Aquarius, all with successful results for rebreather performance and work accomplished by the divers.

    NURC expects to further address the following rebreather performance and construction issues:

    • Maintenance of rebreathers by aquanauts during the mission, both planned pre- and post-dive servicing and checks, and unscheduled repairs.
    • Increased bottom times between “fills” over open circuit scuba.
    • The logistics of supplying consumables for rebreathers such as CO2 absorbent, O2, and diluent gases.
    • Installation of brackets and flask saddles associated with increasing the capacity of Aquarius' subsea HP air flask farm.
    • Drilling and grouting of bolts in the concrete base for fastening of new Southeast Crossroads Waystation.
    • Continued core drilling and grouting of seabed fasteners and base module for the fixed telemetry tower near Aquarius.
    • Disassembly, relocation, and setup of the Kamper Waystation to a new site 400' from Aquarius.
    • Possible use of the NURP developed REPEX tables, or modifications of the original tables developed for repetitive habitat excursions under NURP Technical Reports 88-1A & B.
    • Results from the previous six saturation missions with SRDD divers have shown the feasibility of using rebreathers from Aquarius, and the next step is to find an available commercial/recreational rebreather that performs as well as the Navy's MK 16 UBAs. A test and evaluation saturation mission with one that NURC has been using is now scheduled for May 2008, and NURC hopes to experience the same success thanks to the work with SRDD.

    NURC/Navy SRDD Development Mission 2
    Principal Investigator: Craig Cooper, NURC/UNCW
    Mission: April 21 — 25

    The NOAA Undersea Research Center (NURC) at the University of North Carolina Wilmington is working for the third straight year on a saturation project with the Navy’s Specialized Research Diving Detachment (SRDD) to conduct two Aquarius underwater laboratory saturation missions- utilizing Underwater Breathing Apparatus (UBA), or rebreathers, for aquanaut excursions.

    Rebreathers were used in early Navy habitat saturation diving in the 60’s, and from NOAA saturation habitats in the 70’s, but since that time, excursion diving has been done almost exclusively on open circuit scuba. There is a continuing interest by the NOAA Undersea Research Program (NURP) in the use of rebreathers from Aquarius, and the Navy, because of their extensive background in using rebreathers, is the logical choice to demonstrate the feasibility related to rebreather maintenance in a saturation environment, and their use on working dives. Four missions were conducted in 2006 and two more in 2007 using Navy MK16 rebreathers to conduct work from Aquarius, all with successful results for rebreather performance and work accomplished by the divers.

    NURC expects to further address the following rebreather performance and construction issues:

    • Maintenance of rebreathers by aquanauts during the mission, both planned pre- and post-dive servicing and checks, and unscheduled repairs;
    • Increased bottom times between “fills” over open circuit scuba;
    • The logistics of supplying consumables for rebreathers such as CO2 absorbent, O2, and diluent gases;
    • Installation of brackets and flask saddles associated with increasing the capacity of Aquarius' subsea HP air flask farm;
    • Drilling and grouting of bolts in the concrete base for fastening of new Southeast Crossroads Waystation;
    • Continued core drilling and grouting of seabed fasteners and base module for the fixed telemetry tower near Aquarius;
    • Disassembly, relocation, and setup of the Kamper Waystation to a new site 400' from Aquarius;
    • Possible use of the NURP developed REPEX tables, or modifications of the original tables developed for repetitive habitat excursions under NURP Technical Reports 88-1A & B.
    • Results from the previous six saturation missions with SRDD divers have shown the feasibility of using rebreathers from Aquarius, and the next step is to find an available commercial/recreational rebreather that performs as well as the Navy's MK 16 UBAs. A test and evaluation saturation mission with one that NURC has been using is now scheduled for May 2008, and NURC hopes to experience the same success thanks to the work with SRDD.

    NURC / Ambient Pressure Diving Technology Development Mission
    Principal Investigator: Craig Cooper, NURC/UNCW
    Training: May 19 — 20
    Mission: May 20 — 24

    Parallel to an increase in popularity and safety of recreational rebreathers in recent years, so too has the scientific community expressed an interest in rebreathers. Aquarius for many years has sought to incorporate rebreathers into saturation to meet the increasing interest expressed by scientists. Unfortunately the incompatibility of recreational rebreathers' computer algorithms with the saturation environment, and misbeliefs about time required for maintaining the rigs pre and post dive, presented problems that were unable to be resolved, until now. Working with US Navy divers, and their Specialized Research Diving Detachment (SRDD) in particular, has shown NURC that rebreathers can easily be maintained in a saturation environment, and resupply of consumable gases and CO2 absorbent can easily be handled throughout a mission. The Navy's MK 16 Underwater Breathing Apparatus (UBA) worked flawlessly throughout six saturation missions in Aquarius, so our next step was to find an affordable recreational/commercial rebreather that would function as well as the military UBA.

    The Ambient Pressure Diving Ltd. (APD) Inspiration rebreather appears to have the compatibility necessary for diving from the saturation environment of Aquarius. This is due to: APD has been able to modify the Inspiration's Vision electronics to calibrate the oxygen cells at depth, and also modify its onboard dive computer for gauge mode; the CO2 canister is large enough to take full advantage of existing Aquarius downward excursion tables; and perhaps the greatest advantage is the Inspiration's ability to adjust oxygen partial pressure (PPO2) low and high settings to match the oxygen partial pressures of the excursion tables. This capability, along with the CO2 canister's duration and low gas consumption, is what may allow a diver on the Inspiration to stay out and work for 3-4 hours without having to refill oxygen or diluent tanks.

    During this 4 day saturation mission, the divers will specifically test the Inspiration in the following areas:

    • Safety
    • Practicality of pre and post dive maintenance and resupply of consumables while in saturation
    • Durability of the units throughout multi day missions in the saturation environment
    • Ability to take full advantage of the NOAA SAT excursion tables with adjustable PPO2 settings
    • CO2 canister duration
    • Gas consumption on downward excursions

    Equally important will be developing the training requirements for saturated aquanauts diving the Inspiration on downward excursions. Present aquanaut training using overhead diving techniques and open circuit scuba runs five days. The NURC trainers and Inspiration instructors will forge training requirements for a saturated rebreather aquanaut that will incorporate all the present safety briefings to cover excursion emergencies and habitat living. It is hoped that the replacement of open circuit scuba with rebreathers will still allow training to be completed within a seven day period, without any compromises to safety.

    Benefits of rebreathers to both the Aquarius program and the scientific community include, but are not limited to: less wear and maintenance on topside air compressors due to lower gas consumption compared to filling scuba tanks; decrease in use or elimination of underwater fill stations and their high pressure umbilicals; increased time spent on science and less time spent filling tanks; and scientists studying fish can get closer to the subject, due to the lack of bubbles and virtually no ambient noise.

    It is hoped that this "test and evaluation" saturation mission, pairing up Inspiration instructors and NURC trainers, will answer these questions and more, continuing the success attained with military UBAs, hopefully to soon offer rebreathers to scientists working from Aquarius.

  • 2007

    Mission 3 — NURC/Navy Saturation Development Mission 1
    Principal Investigator: Craig Cooper, NURC/UNCW
    Mission: June 5 — 9


    Mission 4 — NURC/Navy Saturation Development Mission 2
    Principal Investigator: Craig Cooper, NURC/UNCW
    Mission: June 10 — 14

  • 2006

    Mission 3 — NURC/Navy Saturation Development Mission I
    Principal Investigator: Craig Cooper, NURC/UNCW
    Training: June 5 — 6
    Mission: June 6 — 10


    Mission 4 — NURC/Navy Saturation Development Mission II
    Principal Investigator: Craig Cooper, NURC/UNCW
    Mission: June 12 — 15


    Mission 7 — NURC/Navy Saturation Development Mission III
    Principal Investigator: Craig Cooper, NURC/UNCW
    Mission: November 3 — 7


    Mission 8 — NURC/Navy Saturation Development Mission IV
    Principal Investigator: Craig Cooper, NURC/UNCW
    Mission: November 9 — 13

  • 2005
    Mission 7 — Navy Saturation Diving School training mission for habitat saturation diving, I
    Co–Principal Investigators: Craig Cooper, NURC/UNCW
    Supervisor of Diving: Capt. Mark Helmkamp, USN
    Mission: December 5 — 9
  • 2004

    Mission 8/9 — Navy Saturation Diving School Training Mission for Habitat Saturation Diving

    Co-Principal Investigators: Craig Cooper, NURC/UNCW
    Supervisor of Diving: Capt Mark Helmkamp, USN
    Missions: December 6 - 9: December 11-14

    The goal of this project is to furnish United States Navy diving saturation school graduates an opportunity to participate in underwater diving activities in a setting intended to simulate saturation diving procedures related to the Navy’s use of a “fly-away saturation system”. There will be two four day missions to accommodate as many sat school participants as possible. The first dive will have five Navy divers with one NURC habitat tech, the second four day dive will have four Navy divers and two NURC habitat techs. All diving from the habitat will be umbilical diving with MK 21 helmets, with the wet porch serving as an analog to a saturation diving bell. No scuba excursions are planned for either of these missions.

    Specific Goals and Objectives:

    • To develop and expand upon existing cooperative efforts between the United States Navy and the NOAA Undersea Research Center/University of North Carolina at Wilmington, specifically with use of the Aquarius habitat.
    • To determine ways in which the respective programs might better interface with each other to exchange advice and assistance on new procedures, equipment, technologies, or other factors that lead to enhanced safety of diving operations.
    • To assist NURC with the information required to construct a cofferdam to facilitate the underwater installation of new exterior valving on Aquarius’ exterior, as part of the 2005 Special Periodical Survey for continued classing by the American Bureau of Shipping.
    • To assist NURC in initiating end of season preventative maintenance and securing the habitat for winter lay up prior to commencement of 2005 mission season.
  • 2003
    Mission 8 — US Navy Development Saturation Mission.
    Principal Investigator: Mr. Craig Cooper
    Training: December 1 - 4
    Mission: December 6 - 10