|English: The Space Shuttle Atlantis atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) returns to the Kennedy Space Center after a ten month refurbishment.|
The Space Shuttle Atlantis (Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV‑104) was a Space Shuttle orbiter in the Space Shuttle fleet belonging to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the spaceflight and space exploration agency of the United States. Atlantis was the fourth operational (and the next-to-the-last) Space Shuttle to be constructed by the Rockwell International company in Southern California, and it was delivered to the John F. Kennedy Space Center in eastern Florida in April 1985. Atlantis was the only orbiter which lacked the ability to draw power from the International Space Station while docked there; it had to continue to provide its own power through fuel cells.
The last mission of Atlantis was STS-135, the last flight of the Shuttle program. This final flight, authorized in October 2010, brought additional supplies to the International Space Station and took advantage of the processing performed for the Launch on Need mission, which would only have been flown in the event that Endeavour’s STS-134 crew required rescue. Atlantis launched successfully for the final time on 8 July 2011 at 16:29 UTC, landing at the John F. Kennedy Space Center on 21 July 2011 at 09:57 UTC.
By the end of its final mission, Atlantis had orbited the Earth 4,848 times, traveling nearly 126,000,000 mi (203,000,000 km) in space or more than 525 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon.
Atlantis was named after RV Atlantis, a two-masted sailing ship that operated as the primary research vessel for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution from 1930 to 1966.
Weight (with three shuttle main engines): 176,413 pounds (80 t)
Length: 122.17 feet (37.2 m)
Height: 56.58 feet (17.2 m)
Wingspan: 78.06 feet (23.7 m)
When it rolled out of the Palmdale assembly plant, weighing 151,315 lb (68,635 kg), Atlantis was nearly 3.5 short tons (3.2 t) tons lighter than Columbia. Atlantis is the lightest shuttle of the remaining fleet, weighing three pounds less than the Space Shuttle Endeavour (with the three main engines).
Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off on its maiden voyage on 3 October 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). With STS-30 Atlantis became the first shuttle to launch an interplanetary probe. 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. STS-71 marked a number of firsts in human spaceflight: 100th U.S. manned space flight; first U.S. shuttle-Russian Space Station Mir docking and joint on-orbit operations; and first on-orbit changeout of shuttle crew. When linked, Atlantis and Mir together formed the largest spacecraft in orbit at the time.