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Space Shuttle Atlantis is one of the three currently operational Space Shuttle orbiters in the Space Shuttle fleet of NASA, the space agency of the United States; (The other two are Space Shuttle Discovery and Space Shuttle Endeavour.) Atlantis was the fourth operational shuttle built. "Atlantis" is named after a two-masted sailing ship that operated from 1930 to 1966 for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
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 currently retired after STS-135 in 2011. It is on display at Kennedy Space Centre.
The first flight of Atlantis, STS-51-J, took place during October 1985. The mission was one of five flights during which crews conducted classified military activities. Atlantis flew one other mission, STS-61-B, 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 planetary probes (Magellan on STS-30 and Galileo on STS-34). Another mission, STS-37 flown in 1991, deployed the [[Compton Gamma Ray Observatory]].
After STS-86, the seventh flight of Atlantis to Mir, the orbiter underwent a series of refitting operations. From November 1997 to July 1999, about 165 modifications were made to Atlantis, including the installation of the Multifunction Electronic Display System, or glass cockpit. In May 2000 Atlantis returned to service for STS-101, a flight to the International Space Station (ISS).
Other Notable MissionsEdit
In October 2002 a six-person crew aboard Atlantis completed an 11-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS) that involved three space walks. NASA scheduled the 27th launch for Atlantis for September 2005, during the window of September 9-September 24. It was ruled unsafe to fly the mission and the launch window was missed, due to the complications during Discovery's launch of mission STS-114 and NASA's subsequent suspension of all future shuttle launches. Atlantis was the designated STS-300 rescue orbiter for the STS-114 mission.
The longest mission flown using Atlantis -- STS-117 during June 2007 -- lasted almost 14 days. Because Atlantis is not equipped to take advantage of the Station-to-Shuttle Power Transfer System, missions cannot be extended by making use of power provided by ISS.
NASA had planned to withdraw Atlantis from service in 2008, as the orbiter would have been due to undergo the scheduled Orbiter Maintenance Down Period (OMDP); this is a major program of refit and maintenance which would have lasted at least a year. 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 of the other orbiters in the flight manifest. As of March 2008, Atlantis is now projected to fly at least three more missions prior to the end of the shuttle program:
- STS-125 - final Hubble servicing mission
- STS-129 - ISS assembly mission (EXPRESS Logistics Carriers 1 & 2ELC1 & ELC2)
- STS-131 - ISS logistics mission (Multi-Purpose Logistics ModuleRaffaello)
- ↑ "Preflight Interview: Stan Love, Mission Specialist". NASA. 2007-11-19. http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/sts122/interview_love.html.
- ↑ Bergin, Chris (2007-06-23). "Atlantis avoids early retirement - will keep flying to 2010". NASASpaceflight.com. http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2007/06/atlantis-avoids-early-retirement-will-keep-flying-to-2010/.