Space shuttle Atlantis continues to progress smoothly through transition and retirement processing at Kennedy Space Center. The orbiter, designated by NASA as OV-104, or Orbiter Vehicle 104, is currently housed in Orbiter Processing Facility Bay-1 (OPF-1), where workers have thus far removed all toxins and hazards from the vehicle in preparation for permanent public display next year.
On May 29, Atlantis’ forward reaction control system, or FRCS, was re-installed into the nose of the orbiter, having been cleaned of any toxic hazards that could potentially harm the public while the vehicle is on display. The FRCS was used to carry hydrazine and other propellants used for thrust to help the orbiter maneuver in orbit. Using an overhead crane, workers carefully lowered the FRCS onto the nose, removed the crane, and carefully re-attached the FRCS to Atlantis. A lot of work was done by hand, as many bolts have to be to screwed in without power tools. Thermal blankets were also pulled back and taped to the orbiter to allow clearance for the FRCS to be aligned precisely for the install. Once the FRCS is firmly in place the blankets will be placed back in position and thermal tiles will be placed over them, displaying Atlantis as if nothing was ever removed.
VIDEO: Time lapse of the FRCS being re-installed into the nose of space shuttle Atlantis. Video Credit: Jeff Seibert / www.Wired4Space.com
Upcoming milestones in the orbiter’s retirement transition activities include installation of the three replica engines, closing of the payload bay doors, and removal of additional hardware NASA intends to re-use on future missions. Early next year Atlantis will be transported a few miles away to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, where OV-104 will go on permanent public display in a brand new – still being constructed – $100 million exhibit. The exhibit will display Atlantis in flight configuration as it was when on orbit.
PHOTO GALLERY: Image Credits: Mike Killian / ARES Institute and AmericaSpace, Julian Leek / Blue Sawtooth