MV Freedom Star


TV Freedom Star
Freedom Star with SRB.JPG
Freedom Star returns to port with an SRB after STS-131
United States
NameMV Freedom Star
OperatorUnited Space Alliance
BuilderAtlantic Marine Shipyard, Fort George Island, Florida, U.S.
AcquiredJanuary 1981[2]
In serviceJanuary 1981[3]
Out of serviceSeptember 28, 2012
HomeportPort Canaveral, Florida, U.S.
StatusTransferred to James River Reserve Fleet
United States
NameMV Freedom Star
OwnerU.S. Dept of Transportation
OperatorU.S. Maritime Administration, James River Reserve Fleet
AcquiredSeptember 28, 2012[4]
HomeportJames River, Virginia, U.S.[4]
StatusLoaned to Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education
United States
NameTV Freedom Star
OwnerU.S. Maritime Administration
OperatorPaul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education[5]
AcquiredNovember 6, 2015
HomeportPiney Point, Maryland, U.S.[5]
StatusIn service
General characteristics
Tonnage484 GT, 743 GRT; 239 NT, 222 NRT[7]
Displacement1,052 short tons (954 t)[6]
Length176 ft (53.6 m)[6]
Beam37 ft (11.3 m)[6]
Height72 ft (21.9 m)[3]
Draft12 ft (3.7 m)[6]
Depth15 ft (4.6 m)[6]
Installed power2 × 223 hp (166 kW) Kato generators[6]
Speed15 kn (28 km/h; 17 mph)[6]
Range6,900 mi (11,100 km)[6]
Endurance30 days[6]
Capacity24 maximum[8]
  • 10 × crew
  • 9 × retrieval specialists
  • 1 × retrieval supervisor
NotesTowing capacity: 60,000 lb (27,200 kg)[6]

TV Freedom Star is a formerly NASA-owned and United Space Alliance-operated vessel which primarily served as an SRB recovery ship following the launch of Space Shuttle missions. It also performed tugboat duties and acted as a research platform.

From 2012 to 2016, it was a National Defense Reserve Fleet vessel in the James River Reserve Fleet, when it was then loaned by the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) to the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education in Piney Point, Maryland, for use as a training vessel. Her sister ship is the MV Liberty Star (now TV Kings Pointer).


The recovery ships were built at Atlantic Marine Shipyard on Fort George Island, Florida, and delivered in January 1981 to their original owner, United Technologies Corporation. As well as recovering the Space Shuttle's SRBs, Freedom Star has since 1998 been used to tow the Space Shuttle external fuel tanks from their assembly plant at Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, Louisiana, to the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. She served a similar role in recovering the first test flight of the Ares I and was anticipated to continue recovering boosters for the Constellation program before it was canceled in 2010.

Freedom Star underwent special strengthening enhancements to withstand the greater burden of towing the external fuel tanks. The stern was strengthened at critical points, new bulwark fairings were added, and an H-bitt was installed through which cabling is threaded to keep it centered during towing operations. Also installed was a hydraulic towing winch, referred to as a double-drum waterfall winch, holding 2,000 feet (610 m) or more of wire rope on each drum. One drum supports booster retrievals while the other is devoted to external tank towing.

Freedom Star had been used to support scientific research operations including research for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and several universities. She was usually docked alongside her sister at the Solid Rocket Booster processing facility at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Each ship is propelled by two main engines providing a total of 2,900 horsepower. The main engines turn two seven-foot (2.1-meter) propellers with controllable pitch, which provides greater response time and maneuverability. The ships also are equipped with two thrusters. The stern thruster is a water jet system that allows the ship to move in any direction without the use of propellers. This system was installed to protect the endangered manatee population that inhabits regions of the Banana River where the ships are based. The system also allows divers to work near the ship during operations at a greatly reduced risk.[9]

In April 2012, NASA used Freedom Star to track a commercial orbital spaceflight by a Falcon 9 launch vehicle flown to the International Space Station by their space transport contractor SpaceX.[10]


On September 28, 2012, Freedom Star was transferred to the U.S. Department of Transportation's James River Reserve Fleet for potential use as a training vessel.[4]

On November 6, 2015, USNS Freedom Star arrived at the Piney Point, Maryland-based maritime training school to become the Paul Hall Center's training vessel, on loan from MARAD's James River Reserve Fleet in Jamestown, Virginia. At the school, the Freedom Star replaces the Osprey, a yard patrol type vessel that served as the school’s training platform from 1996 to 2009.[5][11][12]


  1. ^ "Freedom Star". Archived from the original on January 29, 2013. Retrieved July 19, 2012.
  2. ^ Janson, Bette R.; Ritchie, Eleanor H. (1990). Astronautics and Aeronautics, 1979-1984: A Chronology (PDF). NASA. p. 168. OCLC 21925765.
  3. ^ a b Deming, Joan; Slovinac, Patricia (October 2007). Survey and Evaluation of NASA-owned Historic Facilities and Properties in the Context of the U.S. Space Shuttle Program (PDF). NASA. pp. 377–379. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 12, 2013. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c "National Defense Reserve Fleet Inventory" (PDF). United States Maritime Administration. October 11, 2012. pp. 2, 10. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c "Freedom Star Becomes Paul Hall Center Training Vessel" (PDF). The Seafarers LOG. Vol. 78 no. 4. Camp Springs, MD: Seafarers International Union. April 2016. p. 12. ISSN 1086-4636. Retrieved June 22, 2020. The SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education (PHC) has a new training vessel. She is the USNS Freedom Star, a National Defense Reserve Fleet vessel on loan from the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD). She arrived at the Piney Point, Maryland-based maritime training school Nov. 6 with PHC Capt. Allan Tupper at the helm. (Article also available at:
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Ship Specifications". September 19, 2002. Archived from the original on November 12, 2013. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  7. ^ "Freedom Star: General Characteristics". American Bureau of Shipping. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  8. ^ "Inside SRB Retrieval" (PDF). Spaceport News. Kennedy Space Center. 41 (17): 4–5. August 23, 2002. Archived from the original on June 23, 2003.
  9. ^ "Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster Retrieval Ships". September 1994. KSC Release No. 46-81. Archived from the original on February 7, 2011.
  10. ^ Barnstorff, Kathy (April 25, 2012). "Former Shuttle Booster Recovery Ship to Image SpaceX Launch". Retrieved March 29, 2014.
  11. ^ "THE BAY'S MARITIME SCHOOLS". Chesapeake Bay Magazine. Annapolis, MD: Chesapeake Bay Media. August 9, 2018. Retrieved June 22, 2020. [Photo of ship at new homeport]: Photo Caption: Freedom Star, a former NASA recovery ship, is used for training at the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education in Piney Point, Md. Photo by: Paul Hall Maritime Center.
  12. ^ "Sea Services Directory". Maritime Administration, RRF Ships. Seapower. No. 2018 Almanac. Arlington, VA: Navy League Of the United States. January 2018. p. 145. ISSN 0199-1337. Ready Reserve Force Ships; State Maritime Academy Training Ships/Training Vessels.

External links

Media related to Freedom Star (tugboat, 1981) at Wikimedia Commons

  • Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster Retrieval Ships at