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Photo Gallery: Atlantis departs hangar for final space shuttle flight

May 17, 2011 — Space shuttle Atlantis was rolled out from its hangar Tuesday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, completing the first of two road trips toward its final launch and the last mission for NASA's 30-year shuttle program.

The rollover came a day after the final launch of space shuttle Endeavour on the 16-day STS-134 mission.

Atlantis — NASA's "middle child" among its retiring fleet of three winged orbiters — emerged tail first from Orbiter Processing Facility-1 (OPF-1) at 8:03 a.m. EDT, starting its rollover to the nearby 52-story Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).

After pausing outside for a few hours for photos with shuttle workers and its four person STS-135 crew, Atlantis came to a rest in the VAB's transfer aisle, awaiting its "lift and mate" to its twin solid rocket boosters and external tank that it will use to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) in July.

The 12-day STS-135 mission will mark Atlantis' 33rd and final flight to space. It is NASA's 135th and last space shuttle mission since STS-1 launched in April 1981.

Tuesday's quarter-mile trip between the OPF and VAB was the 37th rollover in 25 years for Atlantis, also known by its orbiter designation OV-104.

Atlantis has more rollovers than launches because it repeated the trip on several occasions. Additional rollovers took place prior to its seventh mission, STS-38, in 1990; in 2003, before Atlantis was replaced by Discovery on STS-114; and prior to STS-125 in 2009. Atlantis was also rolled over after the 1986 loss of Challenger to test the safety changes made to the launch pads.

Once mated to its boosters and tank -- a procedure expected to be completed by Wednesday evening -- Atlantis will leave the VAB on a different type of roll.

Scheduled to begin the evening of May 31, the shuttle will roll out the 3.4 miles to Launch Pad 39A on a mobile launch platform and crawler transporter. At the pad, Atlantis will be readied for its STS-135 mission and loaded with its payload -- a logistics carrier packed with supplies for the ISS.
 


Photos: collectSPACE / Robert Z. Pearlman

Atlantis departs hangar for final space shuttle flight

Atlantis departs hangar for final space shuttle flight

Atlantis departs hangar for final space shuttle flight

Atlantis departs hangar for final space shuttle flight

Atlantis departs hangar for final space shuttle flight

Atlantis departs hangar for final space shuttle flight

Atlantis departs hangar for final space shuttle flight

Atlantis departs hangar for final space shuttle flight

Atlantis departs hangar for final space shuttle flight

Atlantis departs hangar for final space shuttle flight

Atlantis departs hangar for final space shuttle flight

Atlantis departs hangar for final space shuttle flight

Atlantis departs hangar for final space shuttle flight

Atlantis departs hangar for final space shuttle flight

Atlantis departs hangar for final space shuttle flight

Atlantis departs hangar for final space shuttle flight

Atlantis departs hangar for final space shuttle flight

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