CHENNAI: What does it take to send a human to 6-km ocean depth? Ask scientists at the Chennai-based National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), who are on course to design, develop and realise manned-submersible code named ‘MATSYA-6000’ under the ambitious ‘Samudrayaan project’.
As a first step, demonstration trials were successfully conducted earlier this week in 500 metres depth off Chennai coast. While the actual ‘MATSYA-6000’, made of special titanium alloy, is under development in collaboration with the ISRO, NIOT scientists have made a sphere-shaped replica for operational capability demonstration.
The ‘Samudrayaan project’, known as India’s manned ocean mission, was officially launched on Friday by Union Minister of State (Independent Change) Earth Sciences Jitendra Singh at the NIOT. Singh said this niche technology would facilitate Ministry of Earth Sciences in carrying out deep ocean exploration of the non-living resources such as polymetallic manganese nodules, gas hydrates, hydro-thermal sulphides and cobalt crusts, located at a depth between 1000 and 5500 metres.
NIOT director GA Ramadass told TNIE the demonstration trials were mainly to have a first-hand experience of deploying a 2.1 diameter personnel sphere underwater and check for pressure. NIOT scientist S Ramesh, who headed the trials, said the sphere weighs about 5 tonnes and doesn’t contain any other sub-systems. In the next stage, crew members, who will be sent to shallow depths to access the comfort, will have life support and safety systems.
Aid to harvest sea minerals
While Ramadass said the manned-submersible will be ready for qualification trials by December 2024, the Union minister wished the nation could set a record by sending a man to deep ocean and deep space simultaneously. ISRO is planning for Gaganyaan, a manned space mission, in early 2023. NIOT officials said the final MATSYA 6000 will be capable of carrying three crew members with an endurance of 12 hours and an additional 96 hours in case of emergency.
It will be maneuvered at the deep sea floor autonomously using a battery-powered propulsion system at 6,000 metres depth. As India is a pioneer investor and continuing contract for deep sea mineral exploration under United Nations International Seabed Authority, this vehicle helps India harvest the resources and assist in development of Integrated Mining System.
A deep-dive into the project
- The actual ‘MATSYA-6000’, made of special titanium alloy, is under development in collaboration with the ISRO
- The technology is expected to facilitate carrying out deep ocean exploration of non-living resources at 1000m to 5500m depth