The MITRE Corporation on Wednesday unveiled a new lab facility containing a 575,000-gallon test tank to advance undersea science from its offices in Bedford. The lab, which is still undergoing construction, is designed to help researchers make discoveries in areas related to climate and national security.
An oceanography lab of this size — among the largest in the Northeast — will enable agencies and organizations to rapidly test a variety of technologies in one space, according to Nick Rotker, MITRE’s department manager for underwater and acoustic systems.
“One of the biggest barriers to entry into the blue tech, or maritime tech, space is really being able to test your equipment in the water in a [cost-effective] and timely manner,” Rotker said. “It’s very expensive to do at-sea testing. Saltwater can just destroy all of your equipment.”
The nonprofit, based in Bedford and McLean, Va., operates research and development centers in partnership with federal government agencies, such as Homeland Security and the Treasury, to help tackle problems through technology.
The new BlueTech Lab will include gantry cranes, instrumentation for experiments, and storage facilities.
A gantry crane can help transport and lower a vehicle, for example, into the tank for testing. And for acoustic communications systems, a transmitter and receiver on either end of the pool can send message waveforms across the tank to enable scientists to study how they behave in a water environment.
MITRE is still working through construction costs, said Doug Robbins, its vice president of engineering and prototyping, but this is the largest investment in a single lab that the organization has made to date. Though the test tank is now open for use, the enhanced lab facility will be finalized next year.
“Part of our objective is to make it open for startup companies and for universities,” Robbins said. “So while we’re funding the development of the lab, the idea is it’s an open capability that’ll help the region advance the blue tech economy.”
Alongside the launch of the lab, MITRE has gathered a group of experts working in various sectors of climate, economic, and national security to form a new coalition.
Members include the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a leader in deep ocean exploration; the University of Rhode Island, which is known for ocean engineering and oceanography; as well as the startup accelerator MassChallenge.
“We know very little about the majority of the ocean and what’s under there,” Robbins said. “So these problems are really hard and really take an all-hands-on-deck mentality.”
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