Dakota Creek launches first of two Navy research vessels

On Feb. 22, Dakota Creek Industries, Anacortes, Wash., lowered its large Syncrolift in the waters of Puget Sound and the research vessel Neil Armstrong floated free. 

Also known as AGOR (auxiliary general oceanographic research) 27, the Neil Armstrong is a 238’×50′ Ocean-class vessel with a 15′ draft. The sister ship (AGOR 28), to be named Sally Ride, will be launched this summer. Both boats are being built under the auspices of the Office of Naval Research with the Naval Sea Systems Command overseeing construction. Total cost of the two vessels is about $145 million.

Guido Perla & Associates, Seattle, designed the AGORs. 

After completion later this year, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts will operate the Neil Armstrong in the Atlantic Ocean. Woods Hole is the world’s largest private, nonprofit ocean research, engineering and education organization.

The Sally Ride, due for delivery early next year, will be operated by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, La Jolla, Calif., in the Pacific Ocean. 

Both vessels are powered by Siemens diesel-electric systems. Four Cummins diesel generators, each producing 1,044 kW, provide primary power for all electrical needs, including variable-speed motors for the two controllable-pitch propellers, a 686-kW bowthruster and a 620-kW stern thruster for dynamic positioning. Cummins also supplied a 220-kW emergency generator.

Cruising speed is expected to be 12 knots, with a 10,000-nm range for missions up to 40 days. The AGORs must also remain operational during 75% of winter months in both the North Atlantic and the North Pacific. 

Berthing is provided for a crew of 20 and up to 24 scientists. 

Some of the other features include a specially designed hull that diverts bubbles from the sonar area, a centralized freshwater cooling system for heating, air conditioning and ventilation, and acoustic navigation and tracking systems that operate at variable depths. 

Unlike other recent oceanographic research vessels, including the Hugh R. Sharp, which Dakota Creek built for the University of Delaware in 2005, the AGORs were not formally built to ICES (International Council for Exploration of the Seas) standards for underwater-radiated noise. “No, they didn’t ask for it in their spec,” said Mike Nelson, the yard’s vice president, “but it was designed and built that way.”

Laboratory facilities include a 1,023-sq.-ft. main lab, a 400-sq.-ft. wet lab, a 311-sq.-ft. computer lab and a 300-sq.-ft. staging bay.

The stern deck working area is 2,557 sq. ft. Deck equipment includes an 11-ton main crane, a 15-ton A-frame and a 5.5-ton, motion-compensated starboard crane. — Bruce Buls 

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