for Submariners

by Hamilton 1:1 Communications, LLC

USS Nautilus (SSN-571)
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USS Nautilus (SSN-571)


USS Nautilus (SSN-571) is the world's first operational nuclear-powered submarine. She was the first vessel to complete a submerged transit beneath the North Pole on August 3, 1958. Nautilus was authorized in 1951 and launched in 1954. Because her nuclear propulsion allowed her to remain submerged far longer than diesel-electric submarines, she broke many records in her first years of operation, and traveled to locations previously beyond the limits of submarines. In operation, she revealed a number of limitations in her design and construction. This information was used to improve subsequent submarines.

The Nautilus was decommissioned in 1980 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1982. She has been preserved as a museum of submarine history in Groton, Connecticut, where she receives some 250,000 visitors a year.

Planning and Construction

In July 1951 the United States Congress authorized the construction of a nuclear-powered submarine for the U. S. Navy, which was planned and personally supervised by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, known as the "Father of the Nuclear Navy." On 12 December 1951 the U.S. Department of the Navy announced that the submarine would be called Nautilus and would carry the hull number SSN-571.

Nautilus's keel was laid at General Dynamics' Electric Boat Division in Groton, Connecticut by Harry S. Truman on 14 June 1952 and the ship was designed by John Burnham. She was christened on 21 January 1954 and launched into the Thames River sponsored by. Nautilus was commissioned on 30 September 1954, under the command of Commander Eugene P. Wilkerson, USN.

Nautilus was powered by the S2W naval reactor, a pressurized water reactor produced for the US Navy by Westinghouse Electric Corporation and Argonne National Laboratory, together with Westinghouse, developed the basic reactor plant design used in the USS Nautilus after being given the assignment on Dec. 31, 1947 to design a nuclear power plant for a submarine. Nuclear power had the crucial advantage in submarine propulsion because it is a zero-emission process that consumes no air. The physics-critical experiments supporting this design were performed at Argonne. This design is the basis for nearly all of the US nuclear-powered submarine and surface combat ships, and was adapted by other countries for naval nuclear propulsion. The first actual prototype (for the Nautilus) was constructed and tested by Argonne at the S1W facility in Idaho.

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USS Nautilus (SSN-571) Bow View
USS Nautilus (SSN-571) Side View
USS Nautilus (SSN-571) Stern View


General Dynamics, Electric Boat Division
Groton, Connecticut
2.980 tons surfaced
3520 tons submerged
320 feet (97.5 m)
28 feet (8.5m)
26 feet (7.9 m)
23 knots (43 km/h) surfaced,
STR nuclear reactor (later redesignated S2W)
13,400 hp (10.0 MW)
13 Officers 92 men
6 torpedo tubes