Halter Delivers Rocket Booster Recovery Vessel 'Independence'

The solid rocket booster recovery vessel Independence, built by Halter Marine, Inc. of Moss Point, Miss., was delivered recently to the Lockheed Space and Operations Company, for whom the vessel was built under a contract from Lockheed Shipbuilding. The 200-foot Independence will perform the key role in the recovery of rocket boosters launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California (scheduled for early 1986) as part of the space shuttle program.

Two Cummins KTA50-M diesels, each rated at 1,250 bhp at 1,850 rpm, provide propulsion power for the twin-screw vessel, while two others, Cummins KTA19-M diesels, power bow and stern thrusters.

The Independence is fully equipped to handle all necessary diving evolutions, with complete diving equipment, air refilling systems, and a hyperbaric chamber of decompression. The bow and stern thrusters will be used for propulsion for safety when divers are in the water. A complete electronics system has been installed for navigation, communications, and for locating and recovering the rocket boosters. The divers will be retrieving partially submerged rocket boosters for re-use on later missions. The boosters separate after the shuttle has reached a certain altitude and float back to earth via parachutes. Divers will quickly connect special air hoses to the boosters and, using two powerful air compressors on board the vessel, purge the boosters of any water and refloat them.

At the launching of the Independence, Maj. Gen. Donald W. Henderson, officer in charge of the Air Force space shuttle program, stated, "Retrieving the boosters will save $45 million per mission." General Henderson noted that a new set of solid rocket boosters costs $67 mil- lion, while retrieval and refurbishing only costs $22 million. "The Independence may well pay back its costs in the first few missions," he added.

General Henderson also praised the Lockheed/Halter team responsible for the Independence, in particular the shipyard at Halter Marine's Moss Point yard for building the vessel on schedule and within budget.

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