Water Cannon Salute trumpets recovery of Last Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters – Photo Album

Article written: 11 Jul , 2011
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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NASA welcomed the very last spent Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB’s) back into port with a special water cannon salute today (July 10) at Port Canaveral, Florida. The twin boosters parachuted back to Earth after powering Atlantis’ historic final ascent to orbit for the first two minutes following blastoff of the STS-135 mission from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on July 8.

After splashdown into the Atlantic Ocean, the boosters were towed back individually by two NASA naval vessels named Freedom Star and Liberty Star. See my photo album.

This beautiful photo op is free and open to the public – and has been since the beginning of the space shuttle program 30 years ago.

Freedom Star hauls in the very last spent Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster from the Atlantic Ocean to Port Canaveral. Credit: Ken Kremer

NASA Water Cannon Tribute to recovery of the Last Shuttle SRB’s
The twin SRB’s on the STS-135 mission powered the last Space Shuttle Orbiter to Space.
Credit: Ken Kremer

Atlantis’ right SRB was towed back first by Liberty Star and arrived at Port Canaveral jetty at about 12 p.m. EDT. Freedom Star came in at about 11 p.m.

Both NASA ships are typically manned by a crew numbering 24 team members. The ocean retrieval normally takes about two days.

Liberty Star tows last SRB’s past humongous Cruise Ships at Port Canaveral. Credit: Ken Kremer

A large crowd of onlookers – including many of us KSC press site photojournalists – were on hand to witness the water cannon blasting from the Elizabeth’s tug, owned by the Port Canaveral Port Authority, and trumpeting the procession through the port channel and eventually past several gigantic Cruise ships.

Freedom Star and last SRB pass through last drawbridge on the way to the Port Canaveral locks a few yards away. Credit: Ken Kremer

Liberty Star tows spent Solid Rocket Booster alongside throngs of spectators in pleasure boats. Credit: Ken Kremer

The boosters were temporarily moored at the North Turning Basin before being towed through the locks and then headed out to the AF refurbishment hanger at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Liberty Star enters Port Canaverl jetty with Atlantis right SRB in tow from Atlantic Ocean. Credit: Ken Kremer

The water cannon tribute was specially commissioned to honor the ocean retrieval of the last shuttle SRB’s that will ever fly.

“The future of Liberty Star and Freedom Star remains to be decided,” according to KSC spokesperson Allard Beutel in an interview. “The ships are available for use. SpaceX rented out one of the ships in an attempt to retrieve the first stage of the Falcon 9 during their two launches from Cape Canaveral.”

Atlantis right SRB towed into Port Canaveral. Credit: Ken Kremer

Rear view of last SRB towing from Jetty Park Pier. Credit: Ken Kremer

Rear view of last SRB towing from Jetty Park Pier. Credit: Ken Kremer

Hoards of spectators watch towing of Atlantis right SRB. Credit: Ken Kremer

Liberty Star tows SRB through the locks at Port Canaveral as the public freely watches this fantastic space show from a few feet away. Notice the 5000 pound frustrum on the deck which houses the parachutes at the top of the booster. Credit: Ken Kremer

Recovery team at work on spent Solid Rocket Booster at Port Canaveral. Credit: Ken Kremer


Lucky photojournalists covering the ocean retrieval of the very last Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster in history (Ken Kremer 3rd from right) as Atlantis’ left side SRB passes through the locks at Port Canaveral. Credit: Ken Kremer

Read my features about the Final Shuttle mission, STS-135, here:
Shuttle Atlantis Soars to Space One Last time: Photo Album
Atlantis Unveiled for Historic Final Flight amidst Stormy Weather
Counting down to the Last Shuttle; Stormy weather projected
Atlantis Crew Jets to Florida on Independence Day for Final Shuttle Blastoff
NASA Sets July 8 for Mandatory Space Shuttle Grand Finale
Final Shuttle Voyagers Conduct Countdown Practice at Florida Launch Pad
Final Payload for Final Shuttle Flight Delivered to the Launch Pad
Last Ever Shuttle Journeys out to the Launch Pad; Photo Gallery
Atlantis Goes Vertical for the Last Time
Atlantis Rolls to Vehicle Assembly Building with Final Space Shuttle Crew for July 8 Blastoff

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3 Responses

  1. Anonymous says

    Good god almighty. It’s a used rocket for heaven’s sake. Get a grip . It was bad enough people shedding tears over a defunct Mars rover let alone an SRB. Let me tell you a secret, they’re only pieces of machinery, they weren’t alive, they didn’t have feelings. Pass the sick-bag Alice.

  2. Chris S says

    Pay no attention to the comment below, some people have no insight of the countless money, time, human effort and dedication for even just one part of the incredible shuttle program and all the commitment of all people involved had not been taken into account. Those of you who have worked this function are greatly appreciated by all sensible and decent people and we understand what it is to loose a job or career.
    Thanks to everyone for all the contributions you have all made towards our shuttle program.
    I feel it is a huge mistake to cancel the program as it leaves this country without having such incredible diverse capability and rather in the hands of other countries.

  3. Anonymous says

    On the contrary. As a member of the Planetary Society I’m a huge fan and financial supporter of the manned/unmanned missions that humanity has undertaken. What annoys the hell out of me is the cloying sentimentality shown to a bloody spent rocket for christ’s sake. The cloying anthropomorphisation of scientific hardware is childish at best. My comments are nothing to do with the hard work and talent that has gone into the various space programmes East or West. However, I do welcome the end of the shuttle programme as it was huge mis-direction of funds, talent and time. The words, ‘eggs’, ‘one’ and ‘basket’ spring to mind.

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