Monday, November 3, 2014

Sally Ride's Legacy Lives On in AGOR 28

By Kathleen Gleaves 

Auxiliary General Oceanographic Research vessel (AGOR 28) began its life as the R/V Sally Ride on August 9th, 2014, with the traditional crack of the champagne bottle. But that's where its comparison to "traditional" ends. The R/V Sally Ride is the latest high-tech vessel constructed for the Office of Naval Research at Dakota Creek Industries (DCI) shipyard in Anacortes, Washington. The Sally Ride is the first research vessel named after a woman, a fitting tribute to the first American woman in space.

Outfitted with the latest in sonar, over-the-side winches, triple mapping capability, and a host of other innovations designed to improve deep sea exploration; the vessel will join the research fleet at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in 2016. Dr. Sally Ride served on the faculty of UCSD from 1989 to 2007.

There remains a lot of work to be done before the first scientists step onboard, fire up the computer lab, and begin the first of thousands of research projects that will be hosted aboard the vessel over its expected 20- to 30-year lifespan. Dakota Creek will work with Siemens Marine to install the automation equipment and complete the outfitting required in Phase 3 of the project.

The christening marks a milestone in the Navy's Fleet Renewal Plan that began 14 years ago. The Navy's commitment to maintaining six research vessels means two ships will be retired to make room for the R/V Sally Ride and its twin-sister ship theR/V Neil Armstrong launched in March. For Scripps, that means decommissioning the R/V Melville over the next two years. It also means building a $25M pier to accommodate the newest member of the fleet.

Dick Nelson, owner of DCI, and Guido Perla, Chairmen of Guido Perla Associates (GPA) and the designer of the vessel, reminisced about their partnership in the design competition, Phase 1 of the project, held by the Navy to select the design and construction shipyard for the vessels.

Kathryn Sullivan, Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, and NOAA administrator delivered the principal address. Sullivan served with Ride onboard the space shuttle Challenger and was the first woman to walk in space. In her address to the crowd, she pointed out "...we currently have better maps of the moon and Mars and Venus than we have of our own oceans." And that an estimated 60 to 80 percent of marine species remain undiscovered. She felt the R/V Sally Ride with its state of the art computer and research labs will undoubtedly advance our knowledge of our oceans. She closed by wishing the vessel and her crew, "...great adventures, grand discoveries, and safe passage home."

Representatives from NOAA, NASA and the Navy joined together with Ride's family and her lifetime partner, Tam O'Shaughnessy, to officially welcome the ship to the Scripps fleet. Dr. O'Shaughnessy, head of the Sally Ride Science organization, is the ship's sponsor and hopes to maintain a professional connection to the vessel as it serves the scientific community.

Dr. O'Shaughnessy expressed her appreciation for the honor. She hoped the ship would instill Sally's "...adventurous spirit and quest for knowledge in all who are privileged to sail on her."

Stewardship of the vessel was determined through a bid process with several research organizations competing for the right to operate the new AGOR ships. Scripps was chosen for AGOR 28 with AGOR 27 going to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Captain Tom DesJardins and Sr. Chief Engineer, Paul Bueren, of Scripps, will likely take command of the vessel in mid-2015. Bueren has been onsite at DCI for the construction and will stay on through commissioning and sea trials.

NAVSEA funded the $145M, two-ship project and will retain ownership. Scripps will operate, crew, and maintain the vessel, as well as manage the scheduling of research projects. Shipboard time will be available to students and researchers from UCSD as well as other universities.

Design Specifications
In addition to its scientific mission, the vessel is also intended for global operations in support of national security interests in the marine field. As such, the design specifications were demanding. The ship had to be an efficient, fully-integrated and highly-resilient blue-water laboratory capable of exploring the undersea environment anywhere in the world. Most of all, it had to be quiet. Since a great deal of ocean research involves listening, excessive ship noise was unacceptable.

GPA's unique hull design met the "bubble sweepdown" performance requirement by diverting bubbles away from the sensitive sonar area. To complete the noise-dampening goal, engineers chose systems, defined equipment locations, and designed special installation methods with acoustics as a priority.

Working deck space is a premium commodity in oceanographic work. The AGOR vessels have 2,557 square feet of clear deck space, with 1,873 square feet of that space on the open aft deck.

Housing the most modern scientific laboratory afloat gives scientists the ability to analyze specimens and data in real time onboard instead of simply collecting materials and bringing it back to a landside lab for later analysis. With analysis occurring onboard, electrical power quality, sample purity, and vessel stability were strong considerations. Thanks to Kongsberg and Siemens propulsion controls and capabilities, the ship can remain fully operational in Sea State 4, and can handle dynamic positioning relative to a fixed position in Sea State 5 with a 2-knot current and 35-knot winds.

DCI called upon a multitude of local, national and international vendors to outfit the ship with the best equipment available. Siemens will begin installing their new Blue Drive™ system by late summer. This advanced, multi-drive, low-voltage system manages the speed of the AC propulsion motors controlling the propellers, stern thruster, and bow thruster. The system provides enhanced reliability and efficiency, multiple failsafe features, reduced fuel consumption, lower maintenance costs, and increased ease of operation for the crew. Siemens is also supplying the majority of the electrical switchgear, the ACCU automation, and their custom, condition-based equipment monitoring system.

Four vibration-isolated Cummins QSK38-DM main engines provide more than 3,900 kW integrated electric power for propulsion and all other ship functions. The integrated diesel-electric plant allows for multiple generator configurations, ensuring the diesel engines operate at peak efficiency in all modes.

Siemens uses a "combinator" style control function to integrate motor speed and propeller pitch, which allows the operator to set the propeller at its most efficient setting throughout the entire range of operations, from cruising to heavy towing. While the combinator is fairly common in ships with controllable pitch propellers with direct drive diesels, it is unusual in a variable-speed electric drive system.

Specifications for the deck equipment were stringent. Cranes and winches load equipment and deploy ROVs and buoys weighing in excess of 20,000 pounds. Allied Marine supplied the stern frame with its 12-foot inboard and outboard reach, along with the TK4-30 portable crane and the TK 70-70 aft-deck main crane. They also supplied the motion-compensated CTD handling system and the starboard side handling device, both of which extend to the waterline for improved safety and load control.

Markey Machinery of Seattle supplied two electric motor-driven CAST-6-125 hydrographic winches, and the DETW-9-11 traction winch, both with AC variable frequency drives for precise control.

As production moves into Phase 3 of the project, Kongsberg will supply a SONAR synchronization system along with their advanced multi-beam SONAR units, a HiPAP gantry with a Sonardyne single beam survey system, and a sub-bottom profiler SONAR. Additional equipment plans include a transducer array, a mid-water echo sounder, and three current profilers operating at different frequencies. This system provides scientists a greatly expanded mapping capability over existing vessels.

The ship's design is compliant with 46CFR Subchapter U (Oceanographic Vessels) and built to ABS Under 90 Meter rules. It will be certified as A1, Circle E, AMS, ACCU, NIBS, Ice Class D0, and UWILD.

According to Hollie Anthonysz, Program Manager of Vessel Construction, the DCI team is looking forward to completing Phase 3 of both ships over the next year. Scripps and Woods Hole are both eager to see the vessels at sea.