Maritime research body to lead government project for modular underwater structure

By Lim Chang-won Posted : April 13, 2022, 14:55 Updated : April 13, 2022, 14:55

[Courtesy of the Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology]

SEOUL -- A maritime research body will lead South Korea's five-year state project to install a modular underwater structure that allows three people to stay at a depth of 30 meters for 30 days. It would be Asia's first submarine space demonstration module with separate spaces for research, residence, a data center and an underwater chamber.
The Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST) said it has been selected by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries to lead the development of technologies for the project that would cost some 37.3 billion won ($30.8 million) for five years from 2022. The project is diverse in research and application fields, covering design and construction technologies to create a living space under the sea and maintenance technologies. 

Along with a submarine space platform, researchers would develop medical technologies for the health and safety of residents, as well as information and communications technology for underwater energy supply and communication. A total of 23 institutions and companies, including the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, and SK Telecom.

KIOST likened the underwater platform to a space station. "The undersea platform is an aggregate of various advanced marine science and technology like the space station. We will do our best to successfully lead the project to the next level," Han Taek-hee, a KIOST researcher, said in a statement on April 13. 

The underwater platform will be built off the southeastern port city of Ulsan.  The sea off Ulsan is relatively easy to work underwater in terms of turbidity, tide, and water temperature, with no history of subsidence in the seabed for the past 20 years, KIOST said, assessing Ulsan as the best place for the installation of a submarine platform for its shipbuilding and marine plant industrial infrastructure.

A KIOST research team has been involved in a state project to develop underwater construction robots. In 2020, two underwater construction robots were put into their first commercial on-site operation to build a water supply pipeline off South Korea's southern island of Geoje.
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