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OverviewSpace 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
Current statusAtlantis is currently in its Orbiter Processing Facility being prepared for launch on STS-125, the final shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope as early as May 12, 2009.
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.
Mir MissionsBeginning in 1995 with STS-71, Atlantis made seven straight flights to Mir (a Russian space station) as part of the Shuttle-Mir Program.
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).
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.