Space Shuttle Atlantis 

The Space Shuttle Atlantis, which now proudly stands inside the KSC Visitor Complex, is responsible for bringing NASA’s Space Shuttle program to life.

It is called OV‑104 and is a retired Space Shuttle orbiter vehicle that belongs to NASA, the spaceflight and the space exploration agency of the United States.

The complex houses the real orbiter vehicle, which orbited the Earth 4,848 times in a flying position over the course of 33 missions.

Within the complex, visitors can see authentic spacecraft and replicas of essential space equipment, such as rocket boosters and external tanks used by the shuttle.

You can also see the flawless presentation of the various space missions carried out by Atlantis between 1985 and 2011. 

Where is Space Shuttle Atlantis Located?

Space Shuttle Atlantis is inside the Shuttle: A Ship like no other Mission Zone within the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

About Space Shuttle Atlantis

Official Name: Atlantis OV-104

Function: orbiter vehicle

Size: 17.2 meters tall and weighed 68,635 kg

Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Merrit Island, Florida

Owner: NASA, spaceflight and space exploration agency in the US

Missions: STS-51-J, STS-61-B (1985), STS-27 (1988); STS-30, STS-34 (1989); STS-36, STS-38 (1990); STS-37, STS-43, STS-44 (1991); STS-45, STS-46 (1992); STS-66 (1994); STS-71, STS-74 (1995); STS-76, STS-79 (1996); STS-81, STS-84, STS-86 (1997); STS-101, STS-106 (2000); STS-98, STS-104 (2001); STS-110, STS-112 (2002); STS-115 (2006), STS-117 (2007), STS-122 (2008); STS-125, STS-129 (2009); STS-132 (2010), STS-135 (2011)

Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit 

Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit 
Image: Cnet.com

The Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit was opened on 29 June 2013.

It showcases Atlantis with its payload bay doors mounted at a 43.21° angle, creating the appearance of being in orbit around the Earth.

The exhibit features a multi-story digital projection of Earth that rotates behind the orbiter.

This projection, spanning 5,900 square meters (64,000 square feet), enhances the visual impact of the display, creating a dynamic and mesmerizing backdrop for Atlantis.

The exhibit offers an educational experience for visitors, providing detailed information about the shuttle’s construction, missions, and contributions to space exploration.

Informational displays, interactive elements, and multimedia presentations contribute to a comprehensive understanding of Atlantis’s role in NASA’s Space Shuttle program.

It is a tribute to the historic achievements of the Space Shuttle program and human spaceflight.

Learn more about other things to see inside the Shuttle: A Ship Like No Other mission zone

Significant Achievements of Space Shuttle Atlantis 

Atlantis was delivered to the KSC on 13 April 1985, first launched on 3 October 1985, and carried out various space missions between 1985 and 2011.

It was the world’s first reusable spacecraft to carry astronauts into orbit.

Atlantis profoundly impacted space exploration by contributing crucial components to the International Space Station.

It was key in transporting and deploying the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory in 1991, a significant achievement for NASA’s series of great space observatories.

Delivery of the Columbus laboratory, the largest single contribution by the European Space Agency to the ISS, during the STS-122 mission in February 2008.

Additionally, Atlantis played a pivotal role in the Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission 4 (STS-125) in May 2009.

On its final space shuttle mission, Atlantis delivered over 9,400 pounds of spare parts, equipment, and other supplies, including food, to the International Space Station.

It also returned over 5,700 pounds of waste to Earth.

History of Space Shuttle Atlantis 

Space Shuttle Atlantis’ designated orbiter vehicle, OV-104, holds a significant place in the history of NASA’s Space Shuttle program.

Manufactured by Rockwell International, Atlantis was delivered to the Kennedy Space Center in April 1985, becoming the fourth operational space shuttle constructed.

Notably, Atlantis was built in approximately half the time it took to construct the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Its maiden flight, STS-51-J, took place from 3 to 7 October 1985, marking the beginning of a remarkable journey.

Named after the research vessel RV Atlantis, the shuttle was crucial in various space exploration missions. 

During its operational life, Atlantis faced challenges, such as the damage sustained during STS-27 in 1988 when insulation from a solid rocket booster struck the vehicle.

Despite this, Atlantis successfully completed its missions, including deploying the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory during STS-37 in 1991.

The space shuttle went on a total of 33 missions during its operational period, with its final mission, STS-135, occurring from 8 to 21 July 2011.

Atlantis completed its final landing at the Kennedy Space Center, concluding orbiting the Earth 4,848 times and covering nearly 126 million miles.

NASA initially planned to retire Atlantis in 2008 but extended its operational life due to the shuttle program’s schedule.


What happened to the Space Shuttle Atlantis?

The Space Shuttle Atlantis was retired from service after its final mission, STS-135, from 8 to 21 July 2011.

Following its retirement, Atlantis became an exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Merritt Island, Florida.

What was Space Shuttle Atlantis used for?

The Space Shuttle Atlantis was used for various missions, including constructing and maintaining the International Space Station (ISS).

And servicing the Hubble Space Telescope and participating in scientific research missions.

How many times did Atlantis fly?

Atlantis completed a total of 33 spaceflights during its operational history, from its maiden voyage, STS-51-J, in October 1985 to its final mission, STS-135, in July 2011.

What happened on the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 1998?

In 1998, Atlantis flew on mission STS-101, which took place from 19 to 29 May.

During this mission, the shuttle conducted tasks related to the assembly and maintenance of the International Space Station (ISS).

The mission involved installing equipment and performing spacewalks to prepare the ISS for future construction and habitation.

Where is Space Shuttle Atlantis today?

Space Shuttle Atlantis is permanently displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Merritt Island, Florida.

It is part of Shuttle: A Ship like no other mission zone, which allows visitors to experience the shuttle up close and learn about its history and contributions to space exploration.

How many space shuttles still exist?

A total of six space shuttles existed earlier. After the tragic disintegration of Space Shuttle Columbia and Challenger during two different accidents, only four are left.

Named- Atlantis, Discovery, Endeavour and Enterprise.

Shuttle Discovery is located in the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center and Shuttle Endeavour is in the California Science Center.

The Space Shuttle Orbiter, the Enterprise, never flew in space but was used for approach and landing tests and is now located in the Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum.

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