Testing a submarine in a model of a foreign ocean

Testing a submarine in a model of a foreign ocean

Sunlight is close to the northern seas of Titan. Before you almost infrared mosaic from the Cassini spacecraft

Creating a submarine seems difficult if you find yourself in conditions where the temperature drops to -300 degrees Fahrenheit and the ocean is represented by methane and ethane. Scientists from the University of Washington are working with NASA to find out how such a device can operate on Titan, the largest satellite in Saturn’s lunar family and the second largest in our system. The space agency plans to send a mission in the next 20 years.

Titan draws attention to itself, because in one feature it copies the Earth - it has a liquid. On the surface of the satellite you can see oceans, rivers, clouds and even rain. But the basis of the hydrological cycle is not water, but methane. NASA has been studying Saturn and its lunar system for more than 10 years, analyzing the intelligence of the Cassini apparatus.

Developed submarine must operate autonomously. She will have to study atmospheric and oceanic conditions, navigate through the depths of the sea and soar on or below the surface. Creating a similar mechanism is much more difficult. After all, if on Earth the water in the oceans is almost uniform, then the concentration of ethane and methane can vary greatly in different parts of Titan, changing the characteristics of the density of the liquid.

NASA Invitation

The idea of ​​solving the problem came to Jan Richardson from the School of Mechanics and Materials Science. In a cryogenic laboratory that studies materials at extremely low temperature conditions, he recreated the atmosphere of Titan and checked how a small heated apparatus could function under given conditions.

Richardson became the first winner of NASA's space science technology scholarship, including an internship at the Glenn Research Center (Cleveland, Ohio).

Simulation of titanium seas

A university team of scientists created a test chamber where they placed the liquid mixture at incredibly low temperatures to simulate the satellite’s seas. They added a two-inch cylindrical cartridge heater to it, which approximated the effect of heat created by the submarine.

One of the main problems is to sort out the bubbles of the titanium seas. If a submarine activated by a thermal mechanism is lowered into the cold liquid of a satellite, nitrogen bubbles will form. A large number of them make it difficult to maneuver, monitor and control ballast systems.

Shooting at -300 degrees

And now try to make a video in difficult conditions. The study was carried out at a pressure of 60 pounds per square inch and at a temperature of -300 degrees Fahrenheit. Scientists have found a solution. They used an optical borescope device capable of withstanding low temperature conditions and high pressure.

The team managed to shoot video with ethane-methane rain and snow. The group also considered freezing temperatures for methane and ethane lakes. It turns out that because of the small amount of nitrogen, liquids freeze at lower rates: 75 K (-324 degrees Fahrenheit) instead of 90.5 K. This is important information if you are worried about the presence of icebergs.

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