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 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.
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
- Installation of the International Space Station airlock and Orbiter Docking
- Installation of the Multifunction Electronic Display System or "glass