STS-135 Atlantis

Atlantis launch STS-135, Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

Wonderful Profile

Space shuttle Atlantis leaps from the launch pad on the final flight of the space shuttle program as STS-135.  Burning over 20,000 lbs of fuel every second, Atlantis will accelerate to 28,000 km/h over the course of eight minutes.

STS-135 Atlantis launch, Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

Handoff to Houston

Space shuttle Atlantis clears the tower on the final launch of the space shuttle program, STS-135.  Once clear of the tower, control is transferred from the Kennedy Space Centre to Mission Control in Houston for the duration of the flight.

Atlantis STS-135 Rollover, Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

Straight Up

A view of space shuttle Atlantis as she stops for the media during rollover from the Orbiter Processing Facility to the Vehicle Assembly Building.

STS-135 Atlantis rollover and astronauts, Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

Fab Four

The final four astronauts of the space shuttle program (from left to right Mission Specialist Rex Walheim, Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialist Sandy Magnus) walk with space shuttle Atlantis during rollover, moving the shuttle from the OPF (Orbiter Processing Facility) to the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) for lift and mate with […]

STS-135 Atlantis on launch pad 39A, Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

Economies of Scale

Photographers set up a line of remote cameras beneath launch pad 39A, as space shuttle Atlantis points purposefully skyward on the eve of her final launch.

STS-135 Atlantis rollover nose detail, Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

Atlantis Details

Some closeup details of space shuttle Atlantis during her final rollover reveal surprisingly complex surfaces.  Top: reinforced carbon carbon panels and tiles on the port wingtip.  Center: thermal blankets on the port OMS pod and covered RCS thrusters.  Bottom: nose details with RCC cap, TPS tiles, and thermal blankets.

Space shuttle mission badge quilt, Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

Mission Quilt

NASA employees at the Kennedy Space Centre display a quilt in front of the Vehicle Assembly Building of every single mission patch dating back to 1981’s STS-1. Photo:  Michael Spooneybarger.

STS-135 wall of cameras, Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

Camera Wall

A wall of cameras line the shoreline of the press site at Kennedy Space Centre for the final launch of the space shuttle program.

Man on phone during space shuttle Atlantis launch STS-135, Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

Important Business

A gentleman conducts Important Business on his phone as Atlantis reaches for the clouds during the final launch of the space shuttle program.

Atlantis Launch STS-135, Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

Monsoon Season

A remote camera set up on a dry lake bed captures space shuttle Atlantis clearing the tower during launch of STS-135. Heavy rains preceding launch day dramatically changed the nature of this photograph, turning the foreground from a brilliant landscape of caked and broken earth to something approaching a mudbowl.

American alligator, Kennedy Space Centre, Florida


An American alligator, common at the Kennedy Space Centre,  chews on a toothpick outside one of NASA’s administrative buildings.

STS-135 Launch Max Q, Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

Booster Max Q

Condensation clouds form around the nose of Atlantis’ solid rocket boosters as the space shuttle makes the transition to supersonic speed. The effect can be seen below, in a frame taken from one of NASA’s HD video cameras mounted to the External Tank:

Chris Hadfield, Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

Chris Hadfield

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield gives an interview at the press site of the Kennedy Space Centre.  Hadfield flew on two shuttle missions, STS-74 (Atlantis) and STS-100 (Endeavour).

Gopher tortoise, Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

KSC Oldtimer

A gopher tortoise, possible older than the space shuttle program itself, basks in the sun outside of its burrow in the press site, gazing towards launch pad 39A.

Launch of STS-135 (audio)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen] The crackling thunder of space shuttle Atlantis’ twin Solid Rocket Boosters fades into the humid Florida sky during the final launch of NASA’s space shuttle program, STS-135, bringing the curtain down on a 30-year old technological marvel. Note:  if the audio player doesn’t appear, click the title (Launch […]