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NASA Space Program Relic Gifted For Maritime Training

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

29 August 2012

With the end of NASA's Space Shuttle Program, the agency has signed an agreement with the United States government to allow the use of M/V Liberty Star, one of two vessels used to recover spent solid rocket boosters, for training purposes at the Merchant Marine Academy, in Kings Point, New York.

The Liberty Star, launched in 1981, served as one of two recovery vessels for retrieving space shuttles' solid rocket boosters, which were jettisoned about 2 minutes after launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. It was agreed that the vessel would be highly valuable to Kings Point midshipmen as the vessel has dynamic positioning, modern towing capabilities and other features that will expand training opportunities.

M/V Liberty Star, which will continue to be available to NASA on request, will soon be transferred to the United States' National Defense Reserve Fleet. Robert Lightfoot, acting associate administrator for NASA, commented: "Liberty Star served NASA well during the Space Shuttle Program. We know it will greatly benefit the Kings Point midshipmen, and we're proud that Liberty Star will continue to serve the United States with distinction."

"This agreement is a win-win for both Kings Point and NASA," said Maritime Administrator at the US Transport Department, David Matsuda. "The ship's high tech equipment and real world capabilities closely mirror what graduates will see entering the maritime work force."

During their service for NASA, the Liberty Star, and her sister ship M/V Freedom Star, were each responsible for retrieving one booster, no easy feat with each standing at 149.2ft (45.5m) tall, with a diameter of 12ft (3.6m), and a fully loaded weight of around 1.4 million pounds, or 635,000 kg. After landing in the ocean, a team of eight divers deployed on two small inflated boats would oversee preparing each booster to be towed back to Cape Canaveral Air Station, after replacing water taken within its casing with air.

During their service the two vessels undertook other roles. Both vessels have seen service in side-scan sonar operations, cable-laying, underwater search and salvage, drone aircraft recovery, as platforms for robotic submarine operations and numerous support roles for other government agencies.

TAGS: marine | training | United States

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