USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, was launched off Connecticut on this day in 1954.

Unlike its diesel predecessors, the Nautilus did not need to resurface to refuel or take on air every 48 hours, and in fact could technically stay submerged for years – making it the first ‘true’ submarine.

Powered by a pressurised water reactor, Nautilus also had the benefit of not requiring tanks capable of holding 90,000 gallons of fuel on board – freeing up much-needed space inside the vessel.

After several years of experiments with marine applications for nuclear power, Congress had authorized the US Navy to build a nuclear-powered submarine in July 1951.

Designated the USS Nautilus in December 1951 (after the World War II vessel of the same name), the submarine’s keel was laid the following year in Connecticut while testing of a prototype vessel and crew member training was carried out elsewhere.

She was finally launched in the Thames River, Connecticut on January 21, in front of 20,000 spectators in a ceremony carried out by First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, who broke the traditional champagne bottle on her hull.

Following further construction and sea testing, Nautilus finally put to sea operationally on January 17, 1955, signalling the historic message: “Underway, on nuclear power”.

Have you been part of a submarine crew? What did you make of the Nautilus?  Let us know in the Comments section below.