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Mission emblem
Mission emblem
Mission dates
Mission: STS-135
COSPAR-ID : 2011-031A
Crew: 4th
Begin: July 8, 2011 3:29 PM UTC
Starting place: Kennedy Space Center , LC-39A
Space station: ISS
Coupling: July 10, 2011, 15:07 UTC
Decoupling: July 19, 2011, 06:28 UTC
Duration on the ISS : 8d, 15h, 21min
Number of EVA : 1
Landing: July 21, 2011 09:57 UTC
Landing place: Kennedy Space Center
Flight duration: 12d, 18h, 28min
Earth orbits: 200
Track height: 360 km
Payload: MPLM Raffaello, LMC
Team photo
v.  l.  To the right: Rex Walheim, Douglas Hurley, Christopher Ferguson and Sandra Magnus
v. l. To the right: Rex Walheim, Douglas Hurley, Christopher Ferguson and Sandra Magnus
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STS-135 ( English S pace T ransportation S ystem) is the name of the last mission (hence the omega symbol in the mission emblem ) of the US space shuttle of NASA . The implementation of the mission, which was also included in the program, was questionable for a long time. STS-135 was the last state manned space mission from the United States as of late May 2020 .

The flight was carried out with the space shuttle Atlantis (OV-104), the start of the thirteen-day mission to the International Space Station ISS was on July 8, 2011. It was the 135th space shuttle mission and the 33rd and final flight of Atlantis .

The crew of just four people was the smallest since April 1983 ( STS-6 ). The multi-purpose logistics module Raffaello and a Lightweight Multi-Purpose Carrier (LMC) were transported.


The crew consisted of four people, so that no rescue mission would have been necessary in the event of a problem . In an emergency, the astronauts would have been brought back to Earth in Soyuz spaceships .

NASA presented the crew of STS-135 on September 14, 2010:


On July 15, 2010, the NASA 2010 Budget Bill, prepared by a US Senate committee chaired by Senator Bill Nelson , instructed NASA to conduct another space shuttle mission (STS-135), taking into account an assessment of the Risks. So far, the House Science Committee's draft budget for NASA has not yet contained an extra mission.

On July 22, 2010, during a Science and Technology Committee meeting, Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas successfully initiated a new NASA budget bill for 2010 to add an additional transportation mission to current planning.

On August 5, 2010, shortly before the summer recess, the US Senate passed its version for a new NASA budget bill.

NASA's board of directors approved a formal mission schedule on August 20, 2010, pending funding approval by Congress with June 28, 2011 as the tentatively scheduled start date.

With the support of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, approval was given in autumn 2010 to allow STS-135 to transition from an on-demand start to a regular mission.

NASA had been working internally on the preparation of the flight for a long time, but it did not appear on the official start lists until January 21, 2011.

Mission overview

With the mission STS-135 (ISS-ULF5) supplies and spare parts were brought to the ISS. Since the ISS program is to be extended until 2020, the station needed more replacement and supply materials. A delivery of a corresponding supply is advantageous for the mission extension of the ISS. The multi-purpose logistics module ( MPLM ) RAFFAELLO with supplies, supplies and spare parts as well as a failed ammonia pump module were transported back to earth.

Originally a mission was scheduled for 2007, which was also designated as STS-135. The ISS construction mission ISS-17A was to be flown, which would have brought an MPLM and an LMC to the station. This flight was canceled after the Columbia disaster . ISS-17A was then carried out, slightly modified, with the mission STS-128 .


US President Obama with his family visits Atlantis

After the end of its last mission , the Atlantis was driven into the Orbiter Processing Facility on May 26, 2010 . There the routine post-flight checks and work took place and she was prepared for her next mission.

At the end of March 2011, assembly of the solid fuel rocket began . The solid rocket is one of the reusable components of the space shuttle. The top cylinder of the right auxiliary drive was used in the first space shuttle mission STS-1 in 1981.

The external tank , which arrived in Florida in July 2010 , was installed between the solid fuel rockets in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the end of April 2011 . In mid-May 2011, the space shuttle Atlantis followed from its hangar to the VAB. On May 19, work on assembling the space shuttle to the external tank was completed. On the same day, NASA announced July 8th as the intended launch date for the mission.

On July 1, the space shuttle was driven to Pad 39 A with a special crawler. There, the preparations for launch continued and the payload was loaded onto the Atlantis.

Mission history

The Atlantis at launch on July 8th, 2011

Despite the initially bad weather forecast, NASA decided to make a start attempt on July 8th. 31 seconds before the scheduled start, the countdown was interrupted by the computer as it was unclear whether a boom of the launch tower was fully retracted. After 3 minutes the countdown was continued and the Atlantis started successfully.

Two days later, on July 10, the Atlantis docked with the ISS. The following day, the Raffaello logistics module was unloaded from the shuttle's payload bay and installed at Harmony . On July 12, a found spacewalk by Mike Fossum and Ron Garan instead.

On July 19, the Atlantis left the ISS. The Raffaello module had previously been stowed back in the Atlantis' payload bay. On flight day 14, July 21, 2011, the Atlantis landed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, marking the end of the space shuttle era.

Contingency plans

In contrast to other shuttle flights, no further space shuttle was kept ready for a possible rescue flight on this mission. In the event that damage to Atlantis would have made a safe return to Earth impossible, the crew of the STS-135 would have stayed on board the ISS for the time being and were brought back to Earth in Soyuz spaceships over the course of the following months. For the selection of the Atlantis crew, this meant that they also had to meet the more stringent requirements for Soyuz TMA missions, so Sokol spacesuits and Soyuz contour seats were custom-made for them.

As a result, two Soyuz spaceships, each with one and one with two free spaces, would have started to the ISS. The crew of STS-135 would then have returned to Earth with Soyuz TMA-21 (Rex Walheim), Soyuz TMA-02M (Christopher Ferguson), Soyuz TMA-03M (Sandra Magnus) and Soyuz TMA-04M (Douglas Hurley), so that the full return of the crew would have taken until June 2012.

See also

Web links

Commons : STS-135  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. NASA: Mission Archive. NASA, July 21, 2011, accessed July 21, 2011 .
  2. Last flight of a US shuttle on July 8th - June 28, 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2011 .
  3. NASA: NASA Assigns Crew for Final Launch on Need Shuttle Mission. September 14, 2010, accessed September 14, 2010 .
  4. Stephen Clark: Compromise NASA bill gets bipartisan endorsement. Spaceflight Now, July 15, 2010, accessed July 24, 2010 .
  5. Stephen Clark: House legislation would undo White House's NASA wish list. Spaceflight Now, July 20, 2010, accessed July 24, 2010 .
  6. Keith Cowing: STS-135 Is Almost A Certainty. NASA Watch, July 22, 2010, accessed July 24, 2010 .
  7. Stephen Clark: Senate approves bill adding extra space shuttle flight. Spaceflight Now, August 6, 2010, accessed August 12, 2010 .
  8. Chris Bergin: Payload planning pre-empts an imminent NASA decision on STS-135., August 10, 2010, accessed August 12, 2010 .
  9. a b Chris Bergin: NASA managers approve STS-135 mission planning for June 28, 2011 launch., accessed August 20, 2010 .
  10. NASA Internal Memo: Maintaining Capability to Conduct the STS-135 Mission. Space Ref, December 23, 2010, accessed January 4, 2011 .
  11. STS-135 in Encyclopedia Astronautica , accessed September 24, 2010.
  12. The last countdown: Atlantis on its farewell flight. In:, accessed July 8, 2011 .
  13. NASA Engineering and Safety Center: Assessment of NASA's Approach to STS-135 with Soyuz Crew Rescue , November 13, 2019, pages 26-27.
  14. STS-135 Special Topics, Mission Timeline Get-wells Reviewed., June 22, 2011, accessed June 27, 2011 .