The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
Building the USS Nautilus (SSN-571)
The world’s first operational nuclear-powered submarine. On August 3rd 1958 the vessel became the first submarine to complete a submerged transit of the North Pole.

Driven by a pressurized water reactor, the Nautilus was the first submarine that could stay under water for long periods of time (2 weeks, compared to up to 48 hours with other submarines). The Nautilus had a rounded bow and a streamlined hull. She was 28 feet wide, which provided large interior space for six compartments and three levels in most of the submarine.

 Because of her fast speed, the Nautilus was a remarkable engineering achievement. She served as a laboratory and an operational combat submarine until 1979. 

  • July 1951 - Congress authorized the first nuclear submarine, which would be designated SSN 571 and named Nautilus
  • June 14, 1952 - The submarine's keel was laid by President Harry S. Truman at the Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, Connecticut.
  • January 21, 1954 - Tne Nautilus was launched with Mrs. Mamie Eisenhower breaking a champagne bottle against the ship.
  • September 30, 1954 - The Nautilus was formally commissioned.
  •  December 30, 1954 - The submarine's reactor was started up.
  • January 17, 1955 - The Nautilus began its first voyage and signaled her historic message: "Underway on nuclear power."