On Feb. 22, the launching ceremony for the Navy oceanographic research vessel Neil Armstrong was held at Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes, Wash.

The 238'x50' vessel is the first of two AGOR (auxiliary general oceanographic research) vessels DCI is building for the Navy under a $145 million contract. The Neil Armstrong (AGOR 27) and its sistership the Sally Ride (AGOR 28) are modern mono-hull research vessels designed by Guido Perla & Associates that will be capable of integrated, interdisciplinary, general purpose oceanographic research in coastal and deep ocean areas. 

The research vessels can carry sufficient supplies and support systems to stay at sea for up to 40 days, covering up to 10,000 nautical miles while withstanding high sea and wind conditions. They have the ability to sail at a sustained speed of 12 knots with 20 berths allotted for crewmembers and 24 for scientists. The vessels will be equipped with diesel electric propulsion through four diesel generators producing 1,044 kW each.

The Neil Armstrong will also feature a modern suite of oceanographic equipment, including state of the art acoustic equipment capable of mapping the deepest parts of the oceans, advanced over-the-side handling gear to deploy and retrieve scientific instruments, emissions controls for stack gasses, and new information technology tools both for monitoring shipboard systems and for communicating with the land-based sites worldwide. These enhanced modular onboard laboratories and extensive science payload capacity will provide the ships with the flexibility to meet a wide variety of oceanographic research challenges in the coming decades.

“Similar to the space program at that time, the launching is a small step in the process of developing this vessel but once the vessel is delivered and set in operation, it will be a giant leap in technology for the scientific marine community,” said Guido Perla, chairman of Guido Perla & Associates.

Delivery is scheduled for late 2014 for Neil Armstrong and early 2015 for Sally Ride. Once completed, Neil Armstrong will be operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Sally Ride will be managed by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography under charter party agreements with the Office of Naval Research (ONR). Both vessels will support scientists with ongoing research worldwide, including in the Atlantic, Western Pacific and Indian oceans in a wide variety of missions.