Originally Posted: 2010-05-12 18:40 (no longer live)

1985 Space Shuttle Atlantis OV-104

Original owner, used, as-is, where-is. Currently flown 32 times (191 crews) for a total of 120,650,907 miles. Time in space, 293 days, 18 hours, 29 minutes, 37 seconds (as of STS-132). One possible mission remaining.

Space Shuttle Atlantis (Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-104) is one of the three currently operational orbiters in the Space Shuttle fleet of NASA, the space agency of the United States. (The other two are Discovery and Endeavour.) Atlantis was the fourth operational shuttle built and was delivered to Kennedy Space Center in April 1985.

In early 2008, NASA officials decided to keep Atlantis flying until 2010, the projected end of the shuttle program. This reversed a previous decision to retire Atlantis in 2008.

Atlantis is named after RV Atlantis, a two-masted sailing ship that operated as the primary research vessel for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute from 1930 to 1966. The 460-ton ketch carried a crew of 17 and had room for 5 scientists. The former RV Atlantis is now commissioned as an oceanographic research vessel in the Argentine Naval Prefecture under the name Dr. Bernardo Houssay and finishing a lengthy period of restoration.

Construction milestones
January 29, 1979 Contract Award - Rockwell International
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
Notable missions

Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off on its maiden voyage on October 3, 1985, on mission STS-51-J, the second dedicated Department of Defense flight. It flew one other mission, STS-61-B, the second night launch in the shuttle program, before the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster temporarily grounded the shuttle fleet in 1986. Atlantis was used for ten flights between 1988 and 1992. Two of these, both flown in 1989, deployed the planetary probes Magellan to Venus (on STS-30) and Galileo to Jupiter (on STS-34). During another mission, STS-37 flown in 1991, Atlantis deployed the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. Beginning in 1995 with STS-71, Atlantis made seven straight flights to the former Russian space station Mir as part of the Shuttle-Mir Program. When linked, Atlantis and Mir together formed the largest spacecraft in orbit at the time.

Shuttle Atlantis has also delivered several vital components for the construction of the International Space Station (ISS). During the February 2001 mission STS-98 to the ISS, Atlantis delivered the Destiny Module, the primary operating facility for U.S. research payloads aboard the ISS. The Quest Joint Airlock, was flown and installed to the ISS by Atlantis during the mission STS-104 in July 2001. The first mission flown by Atlantis after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster was STS-115, conducted during September 2006. The mission carried the P3/P4 truss segments and solar arrays to the ISS. On ISS assembly flight STS-122 in February 2008, Atlantis delivered the Columbus laboratory to the ISS. Columbus laboratory is the largest single contribution to the ISS made by the European Space Agency (ESA).

In May 2009 Atlantis flew a 7 member crew to the Hubble Space Telescope for its Servicing Mission 4, STS-125. The mission was a success, with the crew completing five space walks to install new cameras, batteries, a gyroscope and other components to the telescope.

Among the five space shuttles flown into space, Atlantis has conducted a subsequent mission in the shortest time after the previous mission when it launched in November, 1985 on STS-61-B, only 50 days after its previous mission, STS-51-J.

The longest mission flown using shuttle Atlantis to date is STS-117 that lasted almost 14 days in June 2007. Atlantis is not equipped to take advantage of the Station-to-Shuttle Power Transfer System so missions cannot be extended by making use of power provided by ISS.

During the STS-129 post-flight interview on 16 November, 2009 shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach said that Atlantis officially beat shuttle Discovery on the record low amount of Interim Problem Reports, with a total of just 54 listed since returning from the STS-125. He continued to add "It's due to the team and the hardware processing. They just did a great job. The record will probably never be broken again in the history of the Space Shuttle Program, so congratulations to them".

Orbiter Maintenance Down Periods

To date Atlantis has gone through two overhauls of scheduled Orbiter Maintenance Down Periods (OMDPs) during her operational history. Atlantis arrived at Palmdale, California in October 1992 for OMDP-1. During that visit 165 modifications were made over the next 20 months. These included the installation of a drag chute, new plumbing lines to configure the orbiter for extended duration, more than 800 new heat tiles and blankets and new insulation for main landing gear and structural mods to the airframe. On November 5, 1997, Atlantis again arrived at Palmdale for OMDP-2 which was completed on September 24, 1998. The 130 modifications carried out during OMDP-2 included glass cockpit displays, replacement of TACAN navigation with GPS and ISS airlock and docking installation. Several weight reduction modifications were also performed on the orbiter including replacement of Advanced Flexible Reusable Surface Insulation (AFRSI) insulation blankets on upper surfaces with FRSI. Moreover lightweight crew seats were installed and the Extended Duration Orbiter (EDO) package installed on OMDP-1 was removed to lighten Atlantis to better serve its prime mission of servicing the ISS.

Planned decommissioning

NASA had planned to withdraw Atlantis from service in 2008, as the orbiter would have been due to undergo its third scheduled OMDP. However, because of the final retirement of the shuttle fleet in 2010, this was deemed uneconomic. It was planned that Atlantis would be kept in near flight condition to be used as a parts hulk for Discovery and Endeavour. However, with the significant planned flight schedule up to 2010, the decision was taken to extend the time between OMDPs, allowing Atlantis to be retained for operations. Atlantis has been swapped for one flight of each Discovery and Endeavour in the current flight manifest. Atlantis is now projected to fly at least one more mission, STS-132, prior to the end of the shuttle program.

Flights listing
# Launch date Designation Launch Pad Landing Location Duration Notes
1 1985 October 3 STS-51-J 39A Edwards AFB 4 days, 1 hour, 44 minutes, 38 seconds First Atlantis mission; mission dedicated to Department of Defense.
2 1985 November 26 STS-61-B 39A Edwards AFB 6 days, 21 hours, 4 minutes, 49 seconds 3 communications satellites deployed: MORELOS-B, AUSSAT-2 and SATCOM KU-2.
3 1988 December 2 STS-27 39B Edwards AFB 4 days, 9 hours, 5 minutes, 37 seconds Mission dedicated to Department of Defense.
4 1989 May 4 STS-30 39B Edwards AFB 4 days, 0 hours, 56 minutes, 28 seconds Deployed Magellan probe.
5 1989 October 18 STS-34 39B Edwards AFB 4 days, 23 hours, 39 minutes, 20 seconds Deployed Galileo probe.
6 1990 February 28 STS-36 39A Edwards AFB 4 days, 10 hours, 18 minutes, 22 seconds Mission dedicated to Department of Defense.
7 1990 November 15 STS-38 39A KSC 4 days, 21 hours, 54 minutes, 31 seconds Mission dedicated to Department of Defense.
8 1991 April 5 STS-37 39B Edwards AFB 5 days, 23 hours, 32 minutes, 44 seconds Deployed Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.
9 1991 August 2 STS-43 39A KSC 8 days, 21 hours, 21 minutes, 25 seconds Deployed TDRS-5.
10 1991 November 24 STS-44 39A Edwards AFB 6 days, 22 hours, 50 minutes, 44 seconds Mission dedicated to Department of Defense.
11 1992 March 24 STS-45 39A KSC 8 days, 22 hours, 9 minutes 28 seconds Carried Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science (ATLAS) mission 1.
12 1992 July 31 STS-46 39A KSC 7 days, 23 hours, 15 minutes, 3 seconds Deployed ESA European Retrievable Carrier and NASA Tethered Satellite System.
13 1994 November 3 STS-66 39B Edwards AFB 10 days, 22 hours, 34 minutes, 2 seconds Carried ATLAS mission 3.
14 1995 June 29 STS-71 39A KSC 9 days, 19 hours, 22 minutes, 17 seconds First shuttle docking with space station Mir.
15 1995 November 12 STS-74 39A KSC 8 days, 4 hours, 31 minutes, 42 seconds Carried docking module to Mir.
16 1996 March 22 STS-76 39B Edwards AFB 9 days, 5 hours, 16 minutes, 48 seconds Rendezvous with Mir, including crew transfer of Shannon Lucid.
17 1996 September 16 STS-79 39A KSC 10 days, 3 hours, 19 minutes, 28 seconds Rendezvous with Mir, including crew transfer of Shannon Lucid and John Blaha.
18 1997 January 12 STS-81 39B KSC 10 days, 4 hours, 56 minutes, 30 seconds Rendezvous with Mir, including crew transfer of John Blaha and Jerry Linenger.
19 1997 May 15 STS-84 39A KSC 9 days, 5 hours, 20 minutes, 47 seconds Rendezvous with Mir, including crew transfer of Jerry Linenger and Michael Foale.
20 1997 September 25 STS-86 39A KSC 10 days, 19 hours, 22 minutes, 12 seconds Rendezvous with Mir, including crew transfer of Michael Foale and David A. Wolf.
21 2000 May 19 STS-101 39A KSC 9 days, 21 hours, 10 minutes, 10 seconds International Space Station assembly mission (re-supply ISS).
22 2000 September 8 STS-106 39B KSC 11 days, 19 hours, 12 minutes, 15 seconds International Space Station assembly mission (re-supply ISS).
23 2001 February 7 STS-98 39A Edwards AFB 12 days, 21 hours, 21 minutes, 00 seconds International Space Station assembly mission (carried and assembled the Destiny Laboratory Module).
24 2001 July 12 STS-104 39B KSC 12 days, 18 hours, 36 minutes, 39 seconds International Space Station assembly mission (carried and assembled the Quest Joint Airlock).
25 2002 April 8 STS-110 39B KSC 10 days, 19 hours, 43 minutes, 48 seconds International Space Station assembly mission (carried and assembled the S0 truss segment).
26 2002 October 7 STS-112 39B KSC 10 days, 19 hours, 58 minutes, 44 seconds International Space Station assembly mission (carried and assembled the S1 truss segment).
27 2006 September 9 STS-115 39B KSC 11 days, 19 hours, 6 minutes, 35 seconds International Space Station resupply and construction (P3 and P4 truss segments).
28 2007 June 8 STS-117 39A Edwards AFB 13 days, 20 hours, 12 minutes, 44 seconds International Space Station resupply and construction (S3 and S4 truss segments).
29 2008 February 7 STS-122 39A KSC 12 days, 18 hours, 21 minutes, 50 seconds International Space Station construction (Columbus laboratory).
30 2009 May 11 STS-125 39A Edwards AFB 12 days, 21 hours, 37 minutes, 9 seconds Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission 4.
31 2009 November 16 STS-129 39A KSC 10 days, 19 hours, 16 minutes, 13 seconds International Space Station resupply and construction (ELC-1/ELC-2)
32 2010 May 14* STS-132 39A ** 12 days (planned) International Space Station construction (Mini-Research Module 1 and the cargo pallet, Integrated Cargo Carrier-Vertical Light Deployable)

* No Earlier Than (Tentative)
** To Be Determined

Remaining assigned missions

* STS-335 – Launch On Need

NASA announced in 2007 that 24 helium and nitrogen gas tanks in Atlantis are older than their designed lifetime. These composite overwrapped pressure vessels were designed for a 10 year life and later cleared for an additional 10 years; they exceeded this life in 2005. NASA said it cannot guarantee any longer that the vessels on Atlantis will not burst or explode under full pressure. Failure of these tanks could damage parts of the shuttle and even wound or kill ground personnel. An in-flight failure of a pressure vessel could even result in the loss of the orbiter and its crew. NASA analyses originally assumed that the vessels would leak before they burst, but new tests showed that they could in fact burst before leaking.

Because the original vendor was no longer in business, and a new manufacturer could not be qualified before 2010, when the shuttles are scheduled to be retired, NASA decided to continue operations with the existing tanks. Therefore, to reduce the risk of failure and the cumulative effects of load, the vessels will be maintained at 80 percent of the operating pressure as late in the launch countdown as possible, and the launch pad will be cleared of all but essential personnel when pressure is increased to 100 percent. The new launch procedure will be employed during the remaining Atlantis launches if no other resolution is found. Atlantis will have to fly at least once under this requirement.

After the STS-125 mission, a work light knob was discovered jammed in the space between one of Atlantis's front interior windows and the Orbiter dashboard structure. The knob was believed to have entered the space during flight, when the pressurized Orbiter was expanded to its maximum size. Then, once back on Earth, the Orbiter contracted, jamming the knob in place. Leaving "as-is" was considered unsafe for flight, and some options for removal (including window replacement) would have included a 6 month delay of Atlantis's next mission (planned to be STS-129). Had the removal of the knob been unsuccessful, the worst-case scenario is that Atlantis could have been retired from flight, leaving Discovery and Endeavour to complete the manifest alone. On 29 June 2009, Atlantis was pressurized to 17 psi/120 kPa (3psi-delta), which forced the Orbiter to expand slightly. The knob was then frozen with dry ice, and was successfully removed. Small areas of damage to the window were discovered where the edges of the knob had been embedded into the pane. Subsequent investigation of the window damage discovered a maximum defect depth of approximately 0.0003 in/0.0076 mm, less than the reportable depth threshold of 0.0015 in/0.038 mm and not serious enough to warrant the pane’s replacement.

Valued at $1.7 billion, willing to take offers. Please contact NASA for details and flight support.

  • Location: Kennedy Space Center
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