U.S. Navy Ocean Gliders: Unmanned Underwater Vehicles That Are Improving Our Understanding of the World’s Oceans

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By Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet
Oceanographer of the Navy
Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command

In the wake of multiple news reports about U.S. Navy ocean gliders, there have been numerous questions about these instruments and what they do for the U.S. Navy.

AT SEA (July 31, 2016) A littoral battlespace sensing-glider (LBS-G) is deployed from a Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) T-AGS 60-class vessel. After deployment, civilian pilots command and control Naval Oceanographic Office gliders 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the Glider Operations Center at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
AT SEA (July 31, 2016) A littoral battlespace sensing-glider (LBS-G) is deployed from a Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) T-AGS 60-class vessel. After deployment, civilian pilots command and control Naval Oceanographic Office gliders 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the Glider Operations Center at Stennis Space Center, Miss. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Ocean gliders are autonomous underwater vehicles used to collect oceanographic data in an effort to better understand the ocean. The gliders are made by Teledyne Webb and are sold commercially. The Navy uses the gliders to collect ocean temperature, salinity and depth information, and transmit the unclassified data to Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) for assimilation into NAVOCEANO’s operational ocean models. They are used by scientists and professionals around the world working in academia, the oil and gas industry as well as the military. Gliders have been the workhorses of the operational Naval Oceanography program for nearly two decades.

In 2004, I was on one of the Navy’s survey vessels for the first deployment of a glider from a Navy ship. Afterwards, the U.S. Navy established the Littoral Battlespace Sensing-Gliders (LBS-G) as a program of record in 2010 and has been using these gliders operationally since 2012. Each glider is modular in design and buoyancy-driven, allowing it to collect oceanographic data on water pressure, temperature, salinity in the water column for up to four months without the need for active propulsion.

I fund and direct the operations of this glider fleet from NAVOCEANO at Stennis Space Center, Mississippi. This fleet is the largest in the world, launched and recovered from six forward deployed military oceanographic survey vessels. NAVOCEANO’s scientists and Sailors conduct sea floor mapping from these ships to understand the undersea environment for military applications. Operations of the survey fleet is provided by the Military Sealift Command who own and operate the ships.

The gliders are piloted by personnel within NAVOCEANO’s Glider Operation Center (GOC) 24 hours a day, seven days a week at Stennis Space Center. In the event that the GOC loses contact with the instruments, they remain afloat in the ocean until located and recovered.

How do we use the data? NAVOCEANO uses the data collected for numerical modeling of ocean conditions. These models improve with glider data, which we share with regional partners to help their understanding of the environment.

Only 5 percent of the world’s oceans have been explored. These underwater robots allow us to explore more of the ocean, and faster, at a fraction of the cost of a manned submersible or a ship.  

Why does the Navy use gliders? Only 5 percent of the world’s oceans have been explored. These underwater robots allow us to explore more of the ocean, and faster, at a fraction of the cost of a manned submersible or a ship. The information gathered allows us to better predict ocean currents, density, sea states and tides which the U.S. Navy needs to safely and effectively operate all around the world. Once deployed, a glider can persistently sample the ocean for months freeing the ship to perform other functions.

I am extremely proud of our robust glider program. My goals for this program include expanding the current use of gliders, enabling the Fleet through the use of gliders and ocean models, and accelerating development and deployment of newer systems.

We have approximately 130 of these gliders and they are relatively inexpensive. The U.S. Navy will not only continue to use these technologies to improve our knowledge of the oceans, but we will be significantly increasing our use of gliders over the coming years so that our understanding of the ocean is the best in the world.


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U.S. Navy Ocean Gliders: Unmanned Underwater Vehicles That Are Improving Our Understanding of the World’s Oceans

2015 Air Force Year In Review

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by Air Force Social Media

This 2015 Year in Photos feature Airmen around the globe involved in activities supporting expeditionary operations and defending America. This yearly feature showcases the men and women of the Air Force.

We have selected a few of our favorites from the gallery, which you can view fully at:

2015 Air Force Year In Review

Enjoy!

The Air Force and its mission partners successfully launched the AFSPC-5 mission aboard the Space and Missile Systems Center procured United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., May 20, 2015. The Atlas V rocket carried into low Earth orbit an X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, marking the fourth space flight for the X-37B program. (Courtesy photo/United Launch Alliance)
The Air Force and its mission partners successfully launched the AFSPC-5 mission aboard the Space and Missile Systems Center procured United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., May 20, 2015. The Atlas V rocket carried into low Earth orbit an X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, marking the fourth space flight for the X-37B program. (Courtesy photo/United Launch Alliance)
Tech. Sgt. Timothy Cotterall is decontaminated following attempts to identify multiple biological contaminants in a simulated lab March 18, 2015, during a Global Dragon training event at a training center in Georgia. Global Dragon provided a refresher course for Airmen, allowing them to put their skills to use to identify live chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents and materials. Cotterall is an emergency manager with the Air National Guard. (New York Air National Guard photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)
Tech. Sgt. Timothy Cotterall is decontaminated following attempts to identify multiple biological contaminants in a simulated lab March 18, 2015, during a Global Dragon training event at a training center in Georgia. Global Dragon provided a refresher course for Airmen, allowing them to put their skills to use to identify live chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents and materials. Cotterall is an emergency manager with the Air National Guard. (New York Air National Guard photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)
Marine Corps Hospital Corpsman Melissa Irvin, a 1st Dental Battalion dental corpsman from Camp Pendleton, Calif., carries a box of medical supplies to Unggai Primary School, where medical professionals are setting up during Pacific Angel 15-4 at Eastern Highlands, Papua New Guinea, May 29, 2015. Efforts undertaken during Pacific Angel help multilateral militaries in the Pacific improve and build relationships across a wide spectrum of civic operations, which bolsters each nation’s capacity to respond and support future humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Marcus Morris)
Marine Corps Hospital Corpsman Melissa Irvin, a 1st Dental Battalion dental corpsman from Camp Pendleton, Calif., carries a box of medical supplies to Unggai Primary School, where medical professionals are setting up during Pacific Angel 15-4 at Eastern Highlands, Papua New Guinea, May 29, 2015. Efforts undertaken during Pacific Angel help multilateral militaries in the Pacific improve and build relationships across a wide spectrum of civic operations, which bolsters each nation’s capacity to respond and support future humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Marcus Morris)
This F-16A Fighting Falcon was last assigned to the 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, N.Y., as a ground maintenance trainer before it was retired from service and disassembled Nov. 5, 2015. The aircraft is set to be reassembled and placed at the main entrance of the New York National Guard headquarters in Latham. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Call)
This F-16A Fighting Falcon was last assigned to the 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, N.Y., as a ground maintenance trainer before it was retired from service and disassembled Nov. 5, 2015. The aircraft is set to be reassembled and placed at the main entrance of the New York National Guard headquarters in Latham. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Call)
An Afghan air force member jumps into the arms of U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Daniel Prosymchak near Forward Operating Base Oqab, Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 13, 2015. Prosymchak is assigned to the Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air security forces and is deployed from Joint Base Charleston, S.C. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)
An Afghan air force member jumps into the arms of U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Daniel Prosymchak near Forward Operating Base Oqab, Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 13, 2015. Prosymchak is assigned to the Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air security forces and is deployed from Joint Base Charleston, S.C. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)
Special tactics Airmen from the 24th Special Operations Wing jump out of an MC-130H Combat Talon II at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Jan. 7, 2015. The Airmen were from various special tactics career fields, including special operations weathermen, combat controllers, pararescuemen and tactical air control parties. The 24th SOW’s mission is to provide special tactics forces for rapid global employment to enable airpower success. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Callaway)
Special tactics Airmen from the 24th Special Operations Wing jump out of an MC-130H Combat Talon II at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Jan. 7, 2015. The Airmen were from various special tactics career fields, including special operations weathermen, combat controllers, pararescuemen and tactical air control parties. The 24th SOW’s mission is to provide special tactics forces for rapid global employment to enable airpower success. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Callaway)
Members of the 354th Fighter Wing inspection team walk toward first responders Jan. 26, 2015, during a major accident response exercise at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The MARE tested first responders’ skills in a controlled environment to give them confidence in handling real-world situations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joshua Turner)
Members of the 354th Fighter Wing inspection team walk toward first responders Jan. 26, 2015, during a major accident response exercise at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The MARE tested first responders’ skills in a controlled environment to give them confidence in handling real-world situations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joshua Turner)
U.S. Air Force, Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force aircraft fly in formation during exercise Cope North 15 Feb. 17, 2015, off the coast of Guam. During the exercise, the U.S., Japan and Australia air forces worked on developing combat capabilities enhancing air superiority, electronic warfare, air interdiction, tactical airlift and aerial refueling. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Robertson)
U.S. Air Force, Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force aircraft fly in formation during exercise Cope North 15 Feb. 17, 2015, off the coast of Guam. During the exercise, the U.S., Japan and Australia air forces worked on developing combat capabilities enhancing air superiority, electronic warfare, air interdiction, tactical airlift and aerial refueling. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Robertson)
The U.S. Air Force Academy’s Class of 2015 tosses their hats in celebration as the Thunderbirds roar over Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 28, 2015. Over 800 cadets graduated and became second lieutenants. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James addressed the graduates during the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo/Liz Copan)
The U.S. Air Force Academy’s Class of 2015 tosses their hats in celebration as the Thunderbirds roar over Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 28, 2015. Over 800 cadets graduated and became second lieutenants. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James addressed the graduates during the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo/Liz Copan)
Staff Sgt. Arin Vickers, assigned to the 435th Supply Chain Operations Squadron, is greeted by her dog when she arrives at an airport USO in St. Louis on May 6, 2015. Vickers was gone for six months, and her friends and family were there to greet and surprise her by bringing along Baxter. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Erica Crossen)
Staff Sgt. Arin Vickers, assigned to the 435th Supply Chain Operations Squadron, is greeted by her dog when she arrives at an airport USO in St. Louis on May 6, 2015. Vickers was gone for six months, and her friends and family were there to greet and surprise her by bringing along Baxter. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Erica Crossen)

Visit site: 

2015 Air Force Year In Review

Armed with Science Saturday: Space Matters

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When someone asks you if you want to go see a rocket launch, what else can you say except ABSOLUTELY.

Graphic: Artist’s rendering of Orbital’s Antares medium- class space launch vehicle. (graphic by Orbital Sciences)

Artist’s rendering of Orbital’s Antares medium-
class space launch vehicle. (graphic by Orbital Sciences)

Which, incidentally, is exactly how I responded when I was given the opportunity to get a (reasonably distanced) front row seat to the Orbital Sciences Antares rocket launch at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

As many of might already have noticed, space is sort of a big deal to me.  The chance to reach out and touch the stars.  To be a part of something greater than the world in which we’re tethered.  To move forward as a species.

Now that’s something I want to be a part of, and the Antares rocket launch was a way to make that happen.

So why is the Antares rocket such a big deal, you ask? Let’s break it down.

First of all, it’s a rocket.  Rocket = big deal.

This is no ordinary rocket.  This is one in a series of rockets that are being used – quite fiscally responsibly, I might add – to push the human race out of lower Earth orbit and into the Solar System.

Antares is a two stage vehicle, with optional third stage, that provides low-Earth orbit (LEO) launch capability for payloads weighing over 5,000 kg.

Antares is one of 10 projects with the same point and purpose: risk-reduction missions designed for easy resupply services to the International Space Station.  It has the added benefit of delivering substantial payloads into a variety of low inclination, low-Earth, sun-synchronous and interplanetary trajectories.

It has streamlined vehicle/payload integration and testing via simplified interfaces to reduce time from encapsulation to lift-off.

It can also accommodate major payloads, so it can carry more things than the average rocket might.  It’s also capable of launching single and multiple payloads.

So I guess you could say it’s a multi-tasking rocket.

Phil McAlister, NASA Commercial Spaceflight Division director says, emphatically, that the American aerospace industry is not on the decline, but rather it’s on the rise.

“There’s a lot of anxiety about America’s place in space and whether we can still do things in space that we want to do,” he says.  “I think [the Antares rocket] represents another step in that capability.”

And speaking of capability…

It’s low-cost, reliable access to space.

Let’s take a look at the statistics.  The Antares is a medium-class space launch vehicle designed by Orbital Sciences in conjunction with NASA.  It’s designed to provide responsive, low-cost and reliable access to space.

Getting ready to head to the launch pad, the Antares rocket hangs out with my new friend Larry long enough to snap a pic.

Getting ready to head to the launch pad, the Antares rocket hangs out with my new friend Larry long enough to snap a pic.

Getting ready to head to the launch pad, the Antares rocket hangs out with my new friend Larry long enough to snap a pic.

It’s liquid oxygen/kerosene fueled, so it incorporates both solid and liquid stages and flight-proven technologies to meet medium-class mission requirements.

According to Orbital, “These proven launch technologies, along with hardware from one of the world’s leading launch vehicle integrators, combine to provide cost-effective access to a variety of orbits for civil, commercial and military medium-class payloads.”

Basically, this is a cheaper way to get things into space.

Budgets are a big thing on people’s minds these days, and there’s no wonder.  It’s hard to balance the pursuit of space exploration and scientific innovation on a tighter budget, but thanks  to rockets like these, we have the opportunity to just that for a fraction of the cost.

Going green doesn’t just mean recycling your water bottles.

Mike Laidley is the Deputy Director for Antares for Orbital Sciences, and he says that the rockets are being built with a responsible budget in mind.  Some parts are even being used from other missions, re-purposed for the sake of fiscal responsibility, and even just common sense. Use what you already have is a good strategy when it comes to being efficient and affordable in many cases.

Rockets are really no exception.

“It’s certainly good to take an asset like an old ICBM and turn it into something productive, rather than just having it destroyed,” he explains.

The Department of Defense has a part of humanity’s space mission.

If you think the Department of Defense doesn’t have a hand in protecting our friendly (and sometimes not-so-friendly) skies then you would be wrong.  The DoD is involved in the space program in more ways than you would think.  From the science and engineering that goes into the equipment, to working on satellites and ballistic missiles, even laser technology, the Defense Department is an active participant in shaping the technological future.

The military in particular could benefit when it comes to having a leg (or booster) up in the area of aerospace.  However, the focus isn’t just on space.

“We have a number of strategic programs,” says Hal C Murdock, the ATK Director of Strategy and Business Development.  He’s also a former Navy pilot, so Hal has a personal interest when it comes to supporting our military forces.  He currently works in the defense and commercial department of the Aerospace group.  Hal explained that the relationship ATK has with Orbital Sciences Corporation (the Antares rocket-maker) and the Department of Defense matters not just to the aerospace industry, but also to our country’s defense.

“The most prominent of those [programs] is the Trident II D5 submarine launch ballistic missile program,” Hal explains.  “We produce all three solid rocket motor stages for the D5.  We also produced all three stages for the minuteman 3 solid rocket motor propulsion system for that strategic system.”

This is all very important for the strategic defense of our country, Hal says.  “We are also involved in missile defense.  A number of areas within ATK support the Missile Defense Agency.  We produce all three stages of the ground based, mid-core defense missile system.”

Currently, Hal tells me, they are working on a program called the large class stage for the Air Force.

“We’re getting ready to do a static fire, and what that means is that you put the rocket motor in a test stand.  Then we ignite it and test it on the ground before it would ever fly.  So for this program we have the first stage – the test stage for the large class stage.”

Now when you think about what’s large and what’s small, it might be a little skewed when you’re talking about rockets.  When we talk about large class stage we’re talking about a 92 inch diameter rocket motor.  It’s very big.  The first stage is over 100,000 pounds.

“It weighs a lot,” Hal aptly points out.  “So the Air Force, though a development program called the propulsion applications program, asked us to design and test a first stage and a third stage for this system.  So we’re going to be testing that in May.  So that’s one of the things we’re exercising; the capabilities of the company, all the way from preliminary design through propellant formulation and winding and casting the solid rocket motors.  It’s very exciting for us and it’s hopefully very exciting for the Air Force.”

But the coolest part about this has to be this bit:

A rocket like this one is going to the moon this summer.

Yeah, that’s right.  We’re going back to the moon.  Well, we’re sending rockets back to the moon.  Orbital is working on a high energy space launch vehicle known as the Minotaur V.

Photo: Minotaur V provides cost-effective support of small GEO and lunar missions. (Source: Orbital Sciences)

Minotaur V provides cost-effective support of small GEO and lunar missions. (Source: Orbital Sciences)

The Minotaur V (provided by the same people who brought us the Antares rocket) is a five stage evolutionary version of the Minotaur IV space launch vehicle (SLV) to provide a cost-effective capability to launch U.S. Government-sponsored small aircraft into high energy trajectories, including Geosynchronous Transfer Orbits (GTO) as well as translunar and beyond!

Translunar is a cool way of saying back and forth to the moon.  Now, I know there’s been a lot of “why haven’t we returned to the lunar surface in a while?” questions circling the internet (although I paraphrase, as Y U NO GO MOON is a little less loquacious).  Well the Minotaur plans to rectify that situation.  So when is this rocket supposed to be gracing the moon with its presence?

Sources say sometime later this year, as a matter of fact.

NASA has awarded a contract to the Orbital Sciences Corporation, managed by the Air Force’s Space Development and Test Wing (SDTW), to use a Minotaur V to launch the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) Mission from the Wallops Island, Virginia (in late 2013). The Minotaur will launch the LADEE spacecraft into a highly elliptic orbit where it can phase and time its trajectory burn to the moon.

The Minotaur family of rockets are provided by Orbital Sciences and managed by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, Space Development and Test Directorate Launch Systems Division located at Kirtland AFB in New Mexico.

Welcome to (what I believe is) the next generation of space exploration.  I cannot wait to see what we can accomplish.

This is just the start of what presumes to be a more fluid and effective transition from planet-to-solar system transitions that our space program has in store.  As I mentioned in a previous story of mine, there are some plans in place that look as far as a billion years out when it comes to space.  We still have a long way to go before Star Fleet Academy is seen in San Francisco, but I think Phil McAlister said it best:

(Graphic by Jessica L. Tozer)

(Graphic by Jessica L. Tozer)

Because when it comes down to it…

SPACE MATTERS.

“This should not be NASA’s story.  This should be your story.  Told by you.” – Charles F. Bolden, Jr, NASA Administrator

And you know what?  He’s right.  This isn’t about watching a rocket leave the earth.  It’s about watching science in action.  It’s about moving forward as a species.

Stephen Hawking said, “I don’t think the human race will survive the next thousand years unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet. But I’m an optimist. We will reach out to the stars.”

I’m an optimist, too.

This is about moving toward more advanced space travel capabilities, mighty defense systems and furthering our understanding of life, the universe and everything (beyond knowing the answer is 42, of course).  And that, my friends, is what makes this amazing science journey well worth it.

To the stars and beyond, Antares rocket.  We’re right behind you.

Jessica L. Tozer is a blogger for DoDLive and Armed With Science.  She is an Army veteran and an avid science fiction fan, both of which contribute to her enthusiasm for technology in the military.

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