Oceaneering Space Systems (OSS) was created as a result of a conscious decision by Oceaneering International to attempt to bring the lessons learned through thirty years of successful subsea operations to space, and specifically to the space station program. As oil and gas exploration moves into deeper water, fixed and floating production systems become less viable. With the ROV worksystem increasingly accepted as a reliable intervention tool in depths beyond diver range, a move to subsea production facilities assembled and maintained by ROVs and remote tooling has occurred. This reliance on a teleoperated worksystem mirrors the assembly and maintenance operations planned for the International Space Station program. This paper compares the equipment and operational philosophy behind remote intervention at each of these frontiers and considers the impact of technology transfer on both industries.


Later this year the first elements of the International Space Station (ISS) will launch into low earth orbit and a 5 year assembly phase will begin (figure 1). The current design casts th~ms anned orbiting facility as a research station and a vehicle for international co-operation Fundamental to the success of ISS, and relevant to everyone involved in operating remote facilities, is the success of the assembly and maintenance operations. These will be carried out from the space shuttle and later the ISS itself using a combination of Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA or space walking) and teleoperated manipulators.

Parallels between the ISS and subsea production facilities are obvious but perhaps misleading Both involve operating in a hazardous, remote environment However subsea templates and manifolds generally represent one part of a larger system, whereas ISS is an isolated self sustaining entity. Subsea facilities proliferate as commercially viable alternatives to platforms ISS serves no immediate commercial aim; it is also orders of magnitude more expensive to supply, and has such a public profile that any accident on-orbit could jeopardize the whole ISS program. However ISS does include experimental and scientific facilities that could create a substantial return on investment.

The most telling similarity is at the worksite. ISS and subsea facilities must be assembled and maintained remotely. Broadly speaking two types of worksystems can be used at the worksite, especially as we look to the development of the deep water, guidelineless subsea facilities. The two types of worksystem are the astronaut/hard suit pilot and the ISS manipulator systems ROV system. All the worksystems must access a worksite, remove or attach a payload that they have delivered to the worksite, and recover the removed payload, or just themselves, to a safe location. Of interest then are the interface between the worksystem and the payload, the interface between the payload and the worksite, and the design of the alignment structure that controls the contact of the payload with the worksite.


To perform an external assembly or maintenance task on ISS an equipment designer has a choice of two worksystems. These are the astronaut in a pressurized space suit and the Mobile Servicing System, or MSS.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.