Multi-purpose icebreaker planned

Technical development work for AURORA BOREALIS is progressing

Polarstern on the ice shelf © AWI
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The plans for a new German research icebreaker continue: As a combination of icebreaker, drillship and multi-purpose research vessel, the AURORA BOREALIS will be deployable in all seasons in polar areas and open seas. Now funding has been granted to further develop the necessary technical development for this type of ship, which has never been built anywhere else in the world.

The AURORA BOREALIS will belong to the class of heavy icebreakers. Comparable to the Russian ship types with more than 50 MW propulsion power, the year-round operational readiness in almost all regions of the Arctic can be guaranteed. According to the developers' plans, the researchers on board the ship can carry out meteorological, biological, oceanographic, glaciological, geological and geophysical surveys. In addition, the technical requirements for remote sensing, marine technology, subsea floor engineering and Arctic deep-sea drilling will be created.

Holes under the ice

As a worldwide special feature, AURORA BOREALIS will also enable deep-sea drilling under a closed sea ice cover. The drill pipe of the AURORA BOREALIS is designed for operation depths of up to 4, 000 meters plus 1, 000 meters of drilling depth in the sediment. This covers at least 90 percent of the deep-sea areas of the Arctic Ocean. In addition, special technical arrangements in the hull ensure that remote-controlled deep-sea vessels (ROVs), autonomous vessels (AUVs) or seabed observatories can also be used during drilling operations.

Multi-Purpose Research Ship Aurora Borealis (Sketch) © AWI

In addition to the technical innovations, modularized mobile laboratory systems will be designed to allow a task-specific selection of research laboratories. Subsequent scientific developments can be easily integrated into the laboratory system. In order to realize these technical visions, the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) has now received more than five million euros from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Together with the Department of Shipbuilding of the University of Bremen, the technical development of the new European research icebreaker AURORA BOREALIS will be promoted.

European interest

The construction of the new ship has been at the center of European research interest since November 2006. The AURORA BOREALIS is one of 35 major research projects that have been included in the so-called ESFRI (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures) list of the European Commission. ESFRI has identified the major infrastructure projects of the highest priority for the European research community in the coming decades. display

In order to prepare and develop the management structures of these 35 major projects, the European Commission is making around 200 million euros available in its 7th Research Framework Program. Therefore AWI will also apply for funding in this program together with the European Polar Board of the European Science Foundation. Already eleven European countries including Russia have already signaled to participate in the now approved preparation phase.

(Alfred Wegener Institute, 17.04.2007 - AHE)