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

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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

Ken Kremer

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, research scientist, freelance science journalist (KSC area,FL) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calendars including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, FOX, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now, Science and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, NASA Wallops, NASA Michoud/Stennis/Langley and on over 80 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

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