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A Complex Engineering Challenge

Specialist engineers working on the design of Astute are undertaking complex activities across a vast range of disciplines which are brought together in the creation of a nuclear powered submarine that is in effect three challenging projects in one:  a warship, a nuclear power station, and a spacecraft venturing into the planet’s most hostile and alien environment:

• Nuclear engineering: providing safety and performance improvements to a state-of-the-art Pressurised Water Reactor that is fuelled for life.
• Systems engineering: integrating the thousands of sub-systems that add up to 100km of cabling, 23,000 pipes amounting to10km of pipework, 1 million individual components and over 5 million lines of software code.
• Supply chain management: ensuring the continued existence, co-operation and collaboration of more than 30 main suppliers, many of whom manufacture products used solely on submarines.
• Marine and mechanical engineering: providing solutions for the propulsive power train, auxiliary systems and life support.  Astute must be quiet, vibration free and robust enough to withstand a nearby underwater explosion.
• Hydrodynamics and control engineering: the design of the submarine hull, hydroplanes and control systems to provide control of depth and good manoeuvrability.  The submarine must maintain neutral buoyancy and is literally ‘flown’ underwater.
• Human factors: ensuring that every system is safely operable and maintainable in all conditions by a relatively small crew complement compared with previous nuclear powered submarines.