Historic May 14 Launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis

Shuttle Atlantis transport

On May 14, Central Florida residents and visitors will have a chance to view the historic last launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis from the Kennedy Space Center.  Atlantis is one of three remaining shuttle orbiters, each of which is scheduled to have its final flight between now and the end of the year.  The mission designation for the flight is STS-132 (which stands for Space Transfer System mission #132).

Atlantis’ 12-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS) will deliver a 23-foot long, 17,000 pound Russian-built research module that will provide additional storage space and a new docking port.The module will be permanently attached toone of the existing sections of the ISS and will carry important hardware on its exterior including a radiator, airlock and a European-built robotic arm.  Three spacewalks are planned to install spare components outside the station, including six spare batteries, a Ku-band antenna and spare parts for the Space Station’s Canadian-built robotic arm.

This and the other final flights of Discovery on September 16 and Endeavor no earlier than mid-November will be the last opportunity to transport large components and spare parts to the ISS, which can only be delivered using the large cargo bay provided by the Shuttle.

This will be the 32nd flight for Atlantis, which lifted off on its maiden voyage on Oct. 3, 1985.   Later missionsincluded the launch of the Magellan probe to Venus in May 1989,Galileo interplanetary probe to Jupiter in October 1989, the first shuttledocking to the Mir Space Station in June1995 and the final Hubble servicingmission  in May 2009.

Atlantis is named after a two-masted sailingship that was operated for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute from 1930to 1966.

In total Atlantis has logged 115 million miles of space flight has spent 282 days in earth orbit.

The scheduled launch time is 2:20 pm, given favorable weather conditions at the Kennedy Space Center and at its downrange emergency landing sites in case one is needed.

For those who wish to be as close as possible for the launch, prime viewing sites are along the Indian River on U.S. Highway 1 especially in Titusville, the Beachline Expressway Rt. 528 where it crosses over the Indian River, in Cocoa Beach off Route A1A, and at Jetty Park at Port Canaveral.  Plan to arrive at least 3-4 hours prior to launch.

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