The idea of building a self-sustaining colonization on Mars and becoming an interplanetary species has seen decades of discussions. It is an aspiring mission that companies such as Mars One, NASA and SpaceX are currently working on…and so are we.
WatLock is a Student Design Team with the objective to design and build a sustainable airlock for human habitation on Mars. WatLock was founded in 2018, making it one the youngest student design team at the University. Our close-packed, fast-growing team breathes in a start-up environment. It is one of the few design teams at the University of Waterloo that builds its foundation around space engineering. To be able to accomplish our ambitious goals, we have to think as space engineers. We are a team that shares a burning passion; space exploration!
However, settling on the red planet inherently comes with numerous technical challenges; the planet has a lack of pressure, no breathable atmosphere, extremely cold temperatures, and hazardous perchlorates in the soil. So how does WatLock plan to overcome these overwhelming complications? Quite simply, it is by bringing young innovators and future leaders from the University of Waterloo together and pushing their boundaries.
“WatLock’s primary goal is to a build safe and inviting atmosphere that encourages members to share their ideas and learn new skills. Every member should take pride as we design and build technology for the future of space exploration.”
The competition | Phase 1
There is only one mission: Design and build an airlock that will function in a human colony on Mars. Our airlock will be crucial to providing a safe entryway into any sort of Martian habitat that can sustain an atmosphere for people to breathe.
On the weekend of May 18th, 2019, various universities came together to present their airlock design at UBC’s Mars Colony Project Airlock Challenge. WatLock proudly won the best presentation award after months of hard work.
The competition | Phase 2
Now that the design is done, its time build a functional prototype! This spring 2019, we’ll be building a depressurization system and hatches for the airlock, designing a user interface for astronauts to use, and building a central computer. These technical challenges require the integration of different expertise. Thus, each project is being tackled by a multidisciplinary team of students consisting of engineering, maths, arts, and sciences students. The mechanical team is tasked for the design of all components and subsystems of the airlock. Members on the team do a lot of drawings by hand and afterwards proceed to completing designs with simulations, modelling, and calculations using SolidWorks. The electrical team works with control systems such as life support and pressure control consisting of the computerized system of our airlock and the autonomy of nearly all systems. Members of the team spend work mostly with microcontrollers, circuit design software and communication protocols. The business and communications team handles the team’s website, finances, marketing and sponsorships.
When completed, further projects will be initiated as we approach the day of the competition which is on May 2020. These projects include but are not limited to building an air filter, water purification system, hydrolysis fuel cell, power systems and the overall structure of the airlock.