Atlantis Rolls to Vehicle Assembly Building with Final Space Shuttle Crew for July 8 Blastoff


KENNEDY SPACE CENTER – The end of NASA’s shuttle era has begun as pre-launch preparations for the final shuttle flight by Space Shuttle Atlantis kicked into high gear. The STS-135 mission is set to launch on July 8 at about 11:40 a.m. EDT on a 12 day flight.

Shuttle Atlantis has been moved about a quarter of a mile from its pre-launch processing hanger – known as Orbiter Processing Facility-1 (OPF-1) – to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Check out our eyewitness photo album herein.

Atlantis rolls over from the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF-1, at right) processing hanger to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB, at left) at KSC for the STS-135 mission. Credit: Ken Kremer

The four person crew of STS-135 was on hand to meet and greet and thank the big crowd of NASA managers and shuttle workers who are preparing Atlantis for the final spaceflight of the Space Shuttle Program after three decades of flight.

Atlantis’ crew comprises of Shuttle Commander Christopher Ferguson, pilot Douglas Hurley and mission specialists Rex Walheim and Sandra Magnus.

Atlantis atop 78 wheeled transporter during rollover from OPF-1 to the VAB. Credit: Ken Kremer

More than a hundred photo journalists representing media worldwide gathered to watch this historic event – known as “rollover”. I had a chance to briefly speak and shake hands with Shuttle Commander Chris Ferguson and wish the crew good luck.

Under a gorgeous clear blue sky, Atlantis was hauled to the VAB – while bolted atop a 78 wheeled transporter – a key milestone setting a clear path to blastoff. Inside the VAB, the orbiter is mated to the external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters before rolling out to Launch Pad 39 A in about two weeks.

Atlantis Up Close on the path to the VAB. Credit: Ken Kremer

Midway through the road trip, Atlantis was parked for several hours to allow KSC employees to pose for photo opportunities with the flight ready orbiter for the last time.

The goal of Atlantis mission is to carry the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module (MPLM) to the International Space Station (ISS) and stock up the orbiting outpost with science equipment, crew supplies, food, water, logistics, gear and spare parts before the shuttles are retired forever at the prime of their lifetime.

Check back later for more photos

The all veteran STS-135 crew poses with Atlantis during rollover to the VAB. Credit: Ken Kremer
Atlantis heads to the VAB for the last time in preparation for the STS-135 mission. Credit: Ken Kremer
Atlantis approaches the VAB for the final time. Credit: Ken Kremer
The Space Shuttle Program will be prematurely stopped after the STS-135 flight.
Lack of NASA funding from the US Federal Government is causing the retirement of the Space Shuttles although the orbiters are operating at peak performance. Credit: Ken Kremer
Ken Kremer and Space Shuttle Atlantis on the road to the VAB. Credit: Ken Kremer

4 Replies to “Atlantis Rolls to Vehicle Assembly Building with Final Space Shuttle Crew for July 8 Blastoff”

    1. Too lazy to google?

      “Michael Suffredini of the ISS program has said that one additional trip will be needed in 2011 to deliver parts to the International Space Station.[3] The Space Shuttle was originally to be retired in late 2010, but has been extended until 2011.[4] The extension of the Shuttle Program into 2011 has led to Atlantis being manifested to fly STS-135, which is now intended as the final Space Shuttle mission in June 2011.[5] [Wp]”

  1. “The Space Shuttle Program will be prematurely stopped after the STS-135 flight.”

    Not if you go by economics, it is ruining US manned space exploration. The main goal of building ISS is finished, so it is a timely retirement.

    What was prematurely stopped many times over was developing its replacement, mainly for budget reasons; see the STS “ruining US manned space exploration”. It is circular.*

    * The main conclusion is that the STS should never have been completed as soon as it costs were discovered. Ah, well.

  2. Being an American is a different feeling to each one of us. Seeing Ken Kremers photos makes me very proud to be an American. Growing up most of my life on the Space Coast made it easy for me to feel that pride with every launch. Feeling the ground shake and the windows in the house rattle as the loud roar of each launch traveled across the Indian River is a feeling that will never be forgotten. Knowing that each launch would render more scientific knowledge has always amazed me. It’s sad that the shuttle program is coming to it’s end. We must continue to explore the heavens in some fashion. There is still so much out there to explore.

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