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Space Shuttle Atlantis was the fourth operational shuttle built and is one of the three currently operational spacecraft in the Space Shuttle fleet. Orbiter Vehicle Designation is OV-104.

Space Shuttle Atlantis Picture


Space Shuttle Atlantis is named after the two-masted boat that served as the primary research vessel for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts from 1930 to 1966.


Atlantis (OV-104) was delivered to Kennedy Space Center in April 1985. It lifted off on its flight flight on October 3, 1985, on mission 51-J, the second dedicated Department of Defense flight. The five crew were: Karol J. Bobko, Ronald J. Grabe, David C. Hilmers, Robert L. Stewart and William A. Pailes.

Atlantis was used as an on-orbit launch site for many noteworthy spacecraft, including planetary probe Magellan to Venus on STS-30 in May 1989, the launch of the Galileo interplanetary probe to Jupiter on STS-34 in October 1989 and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (GRO) as its primary payload on STS-37 in April 1991. An impressive array of onboard science experiments took place during most missions to further enhance space research in low Earth orbit.

In June 1995, STS-71 performed the first Space Shuttle docking with Russia's Mir Space Station. This mission was very important historically because it was the 100th manned space launch by the United States, the first ever on-orbit change out of Shuttle crew members and the docking created the largest spacecraft ever placed into orbit at that time.

Atlantis pioneered the Shuttle-Mir missions, flying the first seven missions to dock with the Russian space station. When linked, Atlantis and Mir together formed the largest spacecraft in orbit at the time. The missions to Mir included the first on-orbit U.S. crew exchanges, now a common occurrence on the International Space Station. On STS-79, the fourth docking mission, Atlantis ferried astronaut Shannon Lucid back to Earth after her record-setting 188 days in orbit aboard Mir.

Atlantis delivered several vital components to the International Space Station, including the U.S. laboratory module, Destiny, as well as the Joint Airlock Quest and multiple sections of the Integrated Truss structure that makes up the International Space Station's backbone.

STS-115 was the first assembly mission to the International Space Station after the space Shuttle Columbia Disaster.

Construction Milestones - OV-104

* January 29, 1979 Contract Award
* March 30, 1980 Start structural assembly of crew module
* November. 23, 1981 Start structural assembly of aft-fuselage
* June 13, 1983 Wings arrive at Palmdale from Grumman
* December. 2, 1983 Start of Final Assembly
* April 10, 1984 Completed final assembly
* March 6, 1985 Rollout from Palmdale
* April 3, 1985 Overland transport from Palmdale to Edwards
* April 9, 1985 Delivery to Kennedy Space Center
* September. 5, 1985 Flight Readiness Firing
* October 3, 1985 First Flight (STS-51-J)

Upgrades and Features

By early 2005, Atlantis had undergone two overhauls known as Orbiter Maintenance Down Periods. Some of the most significant upgrades and new features included:
- Installation of the drag chute
- New plumbing lines and electrical connections configuring the orbiter for extended duration missions
- New insulation for the main landing gear doors
- Improved nose wheel steering
- Preparations for the Mir Orbiter Docking System unit later installed at Kennedy
- Installation of the International Space Station airlock and Orbiter Docking System
- Installation of the Multifunction Electronic Display System or "glass cockpit"

Did you know?

* Atlantis was the third Space Shuttle Mission to be launched since the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster. It was the first International Space Station construction mission in nearly four years.

* The next mission STS-122 will be launched in December 2007 and will deliver the European built Columbus Science Laboratory.


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Copyright 2000-2014 Vic Stathopoulos. All rights reserved.
Updated: Tuesday 1st, April, 2014

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