After the day-long Flight Readiness Review at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, senior space agency and contractor managers voted unanimously to set space shuttle Atlantis’ STS-135 launch date as July 8 at 11:26 a.m. The STS-135 mission to the ISS (International Space Station) is the final flight of the space shuttle program. “We had a very thorough review,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, assistant administrator for space operations. “This flight is incredibly important. The cargo that is coming up on this flight is really mandatory for space station.”
During the 12-day mission to the ISS, Atlantis and its crew will deliver the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module containing supplies and spare parts for the space station and its crew. “We’re really looking forward to achieving this mission, putting station where it needs to be and finishing strong with the shuttle program here with STS-135,” said Mike Moses, space shuttle program launch integration manager.
The mission will fly the RRM (Robotic Refueling Mission), an experiment designed to demonstrate and test the tools, technologies and techniques needed to robotically refuel satellites in space, even satellites not designed to be serviced. The crew also will return an ammonia pump that recently failed on the station. Engineers want to understand why the pump failed and improve designs for future spacecraft.
“Atlantis is in great shape out at the pad,” said Mike Leinbach, shuttle launch director. “Team Atlantis is feeling good about the flow and the launch countdown and hope we’ll be able to get her off the ground on Friday the 8th as scheduled.”
Atlantis, the fourth orbiter built, flew its maiden voyage on Oct. 3, 1985, on the STS-51-J mission. Later missions included the first docking to the Russian Mir space station on STS-71 in June 1995, delivery of the Destiny Laboratory to the space station on STS-98 in February 2001, the first launch with a camera mounted to the external tank, which captured the shuttle’s ascent to orbit on STS-112 in October 2002, and the final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope on STS-125 in May 2009. Atlantis is named after the two-masted, primary research ship for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts from 1930 to 1966.
In total, the five orbiters have flown 537,114,016 miles. STS-135 will add more than four million miles to the total. More than 2,000 experiments have been conducted on the shuttles in the fields of Earth, biological and materials sciences and astronomy. In launch configuration, the space shuttle, external tank, twin solid rocket boosters, and the three space shuttle main engines contain about 2.5 million moving parts.