Office of Naval Research receives newest research vessel

The U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) recently welcomed the U.S. Navy’s newest research vessel R/V Sally Ride in honor of the first American female astronaut.

The Navy’s Superintendent of Shipbuilding received the ship from the Dakota Creek Industries shipyard in Anacortes, Washington, and ONR delivered it to officials from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.

Scripps will operate and maintain Sally Ride under a charter lease agreement with ONR, which manages the ship on behalf of the Navy.

“The Navy plays a major role in supporting the national research fleet by delivering cutting-edge research vessels like the Sally Ride,” said Dr. Frank Herr, head of ONR’s Ocean Battlespace Sensing Department. “The Sally Ride is a next-generation research ship that’s sure to make new maritime discoveries and scientific breakthroughs, and contribute to the Navy’s overall mission.”

Sally Ride takes the place of recently retired R/V Melville, which Scripps operated from 1969 to 2014. Melville sailed over 1.5 million miles, mapped the deepest spot on the planet and made the first observations of deep-ocean volcanic eruptions.

“The Sally Ride, like her namesake, will support new discoveries in our Earth’s oceans over the course of the next 30 or more years,” said Program Officer Tim Schnoor, who oversees ONR’s research vessel programs. “The ship will be outfitted with the latest oceanographic instrumentation to support science at sea and instruction of the next generation of seagoing oceanographers. This work will be essential to gaining a greater understanding of the Earth’s changing climate and learning more about the ocean environment in which the Navy operates.”

The 238-foot-long Sally Ride can sail on cruises as long as 40 days and accommodate both a 20-person crew and up to 24 scientists. The vessel has multi-beam bottom-mapping and ocean current profiling sonars, advanced meteorological sensors and satellite data transmission systems. It also features the latest navigation and ship-positioning systems and a specially designed hull that improves sonar acoustic performance.

Sally Ride will spend the next month being outfitted with equipment, spare parts, food and other supplies needed for basic ship operations. In August, it will begin shake-down cruises, an opportunity to test the ship’s capabilities as it goes from the shipyard in Washington to its ultimate homeport in San Diego, where Scripps is located.

Upon arrival, it will begin a series of science verification cruises to test its installed systems and ensure its readiness for conducting future research missions.

In October, Sally Ride will begin federally funded research operations.