Ocean Engineering in the Underwater Launch Testing of Polaris 670537
Testing the underwater launching of Polaris had to be done from an unmanned and remotely operated underwater facility before test missile launchings from a submarine could be safely and reliably accomplished. The development and operation of equipment to perform these tests rivaled and perhaps surpassed the technical problems of the tactical missile launcher. It was necessary to duplicate the undersea environment of the submarine, including water depth and relative ship-water motion from the effect of surface waves and from the way of the submarine. Further, it was necessary to arrest the fallback of inert test vehicles after launch to avoid damage to the launcher and to allow postlaunch evaluation of the structural integrity of the test vehicle.
The servicing of the surfaced launch vessel was accomplished at a catamaran type work barge, and the operation of the submerged launch vessel was accomplished from a monitor barge. Prelaunch positioning of the launch vessel was assisted by Scuba divers and observed by underwater closed-circuit television network. Arrestment of test vehicle fallback was first accomplished by an underwater net system which was later replaced by a crane-supported net that caught the test vehicle after it broached surface water. Relative water motion was generated by mounting the launch vessel on an underwater sled that accelerated the launch vessel to a predetermined velocity before launching the test vehicle and which then decelerated the launch vessel to rest. Over two hundred test launches were accomplished during a six year period.