PORT CANAVERAL, Florida — NASA and the Transportation Department’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) signed a memorandum of understanding Aug. 21 to transfer NASA’s solid rocket booster recovery ship, M/V Liberty Star, to the National Defense Reserve Fleet for use as a training vessel at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y.
“Liberty Star served NASA well during the Space Shuttle Program,” said Robert Lightfoot, acting associate administrator for NASA. “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.”
With the end of the Space Shuttle Program, the two agencies worked together to ensure Liberty Star could continue service as a training vessel for midshipmen at the Merchant Marine Academy. This agreement is mutually beneficial for NASA and MARAD. This ship will serve as a training vessel at the academy, providing significant merchant marine training value to Kings Point midshipmen as the vessel has dynamic positioning, modern towing capabilities and other features that will expand training opportunities. NASA will continue to have access to Liberty Star if the agency requires its use and it is available.
“This agreement is a win-win for both Kings Point and NASA,” said Maritime Administrator David Matsuda. “The ship’s high tech equipment and real world capabilities closely mirror what graduates will see entering the maritime work force.”
Liberty Star was launched in 1981 and served as one of two recovery vessels for retrieving the space shuttle’s solid rocket boosters, which were jettisoned about 2 minutes after launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA still is working to identify a suitable new use for M/V Freedom Star, the other recovery ship.
In addition to Space Shuttle rocket booster recovery missions, the Liberty Star aided in the capture of high definition video and thermal imagery of the SpaceX launch as the Falcon 9 rocket and its Dragon capsule climb through the atmosphere on their way to the International Space Station on May 22, 2012.
IMAGE CREDIT: NASA