Shuttle Atlantis Moved to Vehicle Assembly Building

Space shuttle Atlantis was moved to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) today to clear the facility for shuttle Endeavour. Photo Credit: Julian Leek/Blue Sawtooth Studios

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla – Shuttle Atlantis is on the move again. It was a short trip however; the orbiter was moved from Orbiter Processing Facility-2 (OPF-2) in which it was being prepared for eventual display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex – to the massive Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).

Even in retirement, Atlantis is still racking up “firsts.” For today’s move, the orbiter was actually backed into (as opposed to going in nose first) the VAB. To the best of anyone’s knowledge present – this has not been done before. 

Similar “rollovers” as they are known have occurred with the spacecraft slowly being wheeled from their hangars and into either the VAB or another of the OPFs. In the past this was part of the normal processing flow of these vehicles. Nowadays however, this is a sign that the spacecraft are on their way to their final destinations.

Once Atlantis has been fully decommissioned, she will be transported to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex where she will go on display in a 65,000 square foot, $100 million new facility. Photo Credit: Julian Leek/Blue Sawtooth Studios

In the case of Atlantis, that place is the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The orbiter will be displayed as if it is in flight, in a 65,000 square foot facility. The groundbreaking ceremony for the $100 million structure was held on Wednesday. Today’s rollover was in many ways a rehearsal for the time when Atlantis will make the trip over to the Visitor Complex. The groundbreaking ceremony for this facility was held on Wednesday, Jan. 18. 

Of all the orbiters, Atlantis has the shortest trip to make for her retirement. Discovery will replace the shuttle test article Enterprise at the Smithsonian’s Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia (Enterprise will be sent to the Interpid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York). Endeavour will travel across the country to the Los Angeles Science Center in California.

Atlantis was backed into the VAB, providing a rare glimpse view of the iconic spacecraft. Photo Credit: Julian Leek/Blue Sawtooth Studios
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