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  Space Cover 37: Shuttle SRB Retrieval Ships

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Author Topic:   Space Cover 37: Shuttle SRB Retrieval Ships
Bob M
Member

Posts: 1367
From: Atlanta-area, GA USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 12-27-2009 09:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space Cover of the Week, Week 37 (December 28, 2009)

Space Cover #37, Solid Rocket Booster Retrieval Ship Covers

Highlighted this week are covers from SRB Retrieval Ships UTC Freedom and UTC Liberty. These two ships have been used since STS-1 to recover the two spent Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB's) used on every Space Shuttle launch.

Two minutes after launch, the two 149 foot tall SRB's lose thrust after exhausting their fuel. After separating from the Shuttle's External Tank at about 30 miles altitude, they continue to coast up to an altitude of about 45 miles before beginning their long tumble back to earth. After parachute deployment, the two SRB's splash down about 160 miles downrange. After splashdown, both SRB Retrieval Ships Freedom and Liberty depart for the recovery area.

After each ship locates and secures one spent SRB, the two SRB's are towed back to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for disassembly and refurbishment.

Shown above are the front of two SRB Retrieval Ship covers and the back of two others. The top cover is from the UTC Liberty for STS-2, with the ship's rubber stamp cachet applied and signed by Capt. James Bond. The second cover down is the back of an STS-4 Liberty cover with printed information and also signed by Capt. Bond. The third cover down is the front of an STS-4 cover with a printed cachet showing both SRB Retrieval Ships. The bottom cover is for STS-41C, with a printed cachet giving retrieval information.

These covers should give collectors a basic idea of typical cachets used on these covers, both front and back.

It has been reported that, at least early on, these SRB Retrieval Ship covers were actually on board the ships during retrieval opertations, although no such documentation is included. And unknown to me is the quantity of covers serviced by each ship for each mission and also how many flights covers were provided to collectors. The last Liberty/Freedom covers I know of were done for STS-41G, Shuttle flight 13.

The covers were serviced for free, but greedy individuals ruined that by sending in excessive numbers for each mission and the service was greatly curtailed or possibly ended prematurely.

More information about these interesting covers would be appreciated and would be reported here.

yeknom-ecaps
Member

Posts: 458
From: Northville MI USA
Registered: Aug 2005

posted 12-27-2009 02:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for yeknom-ecaps   Click Here to Email yeknom-ecaps     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks Bob -

They no longer go by UTC (don't know when the actual designation changed), they are the M/V Freedom Star and the M/V Liberty Star. The M/V Freedom Star was involved in the PORT (Post-landing Orion Recovery Test) at KSC in April 2009. Both ships were involved in the Ares I-X booster recovery in October 2009.

Ken Havekotte
Member

Posts: 1823
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 12-27-2009 08:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It has been my understanding that all of the colorful printed cachet covers, produced by UTC, were actually carried onboard their designated retrieval vessels from STS-1 thru STS-41G. Most of the company's covers, usually posted with Cape Canaveral machine cancels, were given to their employees here at the Cape and elsewhere. While not confirmed, the printed quantities of them was 1,000 or more for each SRB retrieval ship mission.

Bob M
Member

Posts: 1367
From: Atlanta-area, GA USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 12-28-2009 07:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the information, guys, on these interesting covers from the early days of the Shuttle Program. I've had an interest in them but never knew too much about them.

The top cover is one I sent in and it came back canceled for the Liberty's return to port, was nicely cacheted, with retrieval info filled in, and signed by the Liberty's Captain. As I remember, there was a limit of just a very few covers for each flight and it was these nice rubber stamp cacheted covers that suffered from excessive requests and the free service was discontinued.

All times are CT (US)

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