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Temporary Multidisciplinary Seafloor Observatory

The Observatory (also named "Bottom Station") is a four-leg marine alumiium frame (overall dimension 3.50m x 3.50m x 3.30m) supporting all equipment and vessels constituting the scientific and operative payload.
In the design of the station particular care is paid to ensure correct installation and positioning of the various sensors, taking into account their specific requirements and sensitivity to interferences, induced noise, correct alignment, etc.

The operative payload includes all systems and devices supporting the station activity, namely:

  • data acquisition and control system (DACS);
  • data storage;
  • sensors devoted to the monitoring of the status of the station;
  • energy package; 
  • homing devices for the deployment and recovery vehicle;
  • emergency devices;
  • communication system.

Energy consumption is minimized by adopting different hardware and software strategies, including selection of low power components (CMOS) and maintaining unpowered the devices not in continuous use.
The DACS provides an optimal and safe management of a scientific mission, in particular concerning the acquisition, validation and storage of data from scientific packages, and interface with communication systems. Each measurement is tagged according to a unique reference time provided by a central high precision clock (stability range 10-9 to 10-11)

Automatic checks on the correct operation of each part of the station are carried out. A mission strategy modification, according to the detection of abnormal situations (e.g., failures of subsystems) and according to external commands, is possible.

  Geostar observatory design with the position of main sensors and components. The booms with the magnetometers are extended after the deposition of the observatory on the sea-bottom - Configuration adopted during the Geostar project demonstration mission.

 Criteria that are followed in the design of the bottom station are:
  - Modularity
system modularity allows the achievement of system flexibility and expandability (which means the possibility to modify system configuration both in design and in operational phase without expensive consequences in time and money).; it is possible to obtain the proper configuration for each mission and for each operating scenario, to make maintenance operations easier, to develop and test separately each component and to use each component as a stand-alone investigating system;
  - Interface standardisation
this ensures that components and sub-systems requiring specific technological developments (such as the communication system) does not represent an obstacle during the design phase;
  - Expandability
expandability allows the possibility to reconfigure the system for different missions and to add further sensors/modules capable to meet possible future requirements;
  - Reliability
increased reliability is considered a primary importance factor for GEOSTAR system success. Suitable redundancies are adopted (e.g. for critical components), and GEOSTAR mechanical and electronic equipment are designed in order to avoid that a single failure affects in a substantial way the overall set of activities that is going on.; of course, a failure must not affect the survival of the system and the possibility to recover it even with emergency procedures;
  - Maintainability
maintenance aspects are considered in the design of the various system components, looking for proper check points (for failure diagnosis and system set-up) and easy accessibility to all parts that may require substitution with spare ones;
  - Environmental impact
particular attention is paid in order to ensure that GEOSTAR has a minimal influence on the surrounding environment;
 - Safety
among the most important aspects related to safety addressed in GEOSTAR design, there are: structural integrity of modules and components (pressure vessels, etc.); recoverability of bottom stations and components; data integrity; safety for personnel involved during handling (installation, recovery) and testing operations

GEOSTAR seafloor observatory with MODUS vehicle on the top



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