The SeaOrbiter has yet to hit the water, but it's already being called a 21st-century version of Captain Nemo's Nautilus in honor of the classic novel "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" penned by Jules Verne.
The SeaOrbiter - deisgned by French architect Jacques Rougerie - is part submarine, part research vessel, and part surface ship.
After nearly 12 years of being confined to a virtual dry dock as a concept vessel, the SeaOrbiter has finally completed the industrial design phase and construction on the actual ship is slated to begin in October. The vessel is expected to cost about $43 million to build and will be 58 m high when completed. However, 50% of the ship will rest below the waterline - allowing researchers to perform constant underwater study.
"All technical issues are resolved, all the modeling is done," confirms Ariel Fuchs, education and media director of the SeaOrbiter project. "We gathered institutional and industrial support five or six years ago and it's been a real institutional and financial project for the last two years."
The SeaOrbiter was inspired by famous ocean exploring legends like Jacques Cousteau and Sylvia Earle according to Rougerie. Interestingly enough, both NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are lending a hand with the SeaOrbiter by helping to develop various onboard systems. This doesn't really come as much of a surprise, especially considering that many space missions begin with training underwater on earth.
The vessel also boasts a "green" deisgn, floating with ocean currents and generating power via solar, wind, waves and biofuel.
"It meets the requirements of today's philosophy of sustainability," Fuchs adds.