Press Release

NASA Langley Plays a Role in Space Shuttle’s Last Mission

By SpaceRef Editor
June 30, 2011
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NASA Langley Plays a Role in Space Shuttle’s Last Mission

HAMPTON, Va. – A 30-year era in space travel will come to an end with Friday’s launch of the space shuttle Atlantis. The STS-135 mission is set to lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 11:26 a.m., Friday, July 8, and return 12 days later.

For engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center the shuttle program started even earlier – more than 10 years before – as NASA worked to develop the reusable spacecraft. NASA Langley wind tunnels logged almost 60,000 hours during testing of various shuttle configurations in a number of facilities. Area researchers also played crucial roles in improving shuttle landing gear and runways and protecting the shuttle from the extreme heat of reentry. Langley’s expertise and contributions continue to this day.

During the STS-135 mission NASA Langley researchers will participate on damage assessment and impact dynamics teams. Those teams identify and evaluate any risk to the shuttle if the orbiter’s wing leading edges, nosecone and fragile tiles get hit from debris. Langley engineers also take part in the Mission Management Team meetings that are held daily to evaluate mission status and assess irregularities.

News media who are interested in watching the launch with employees at NASA Langley are welcome to join us Friday morning. Also invited are some Langley researchers who worked to develop the space shuttle. Please contact Kathy Barnstorff before 10 a.m., July 8, for credentials.

The STS-135 mission will deliver the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module filled with supplies and spare parts to sustain International Space Station operations after the shuttles are retired.

The mission also will fly the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM), an experiment designed to demonstrate and test the tools, technologies and techniques needed to robotically refuel satellites in space – even satellites not designed to be serviced. The crew also will return an ammonia pump that recently failed on the station. Engineers want to understand why the pump failed and improve designs for future spacecraft.

STS-135 features the smallest crew ever flown on an ISS assembly or logistics mission. It includes Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim.

Atlantis’ 33rd flight is the 135th shuttle flight and the 37th shuttle mission to the space station. Atlantis, the fourth orbiter built, flew its maiden voyage Oct. 3, 1985. Its four million mile final journey marks the end of the space shuttle program, but not the end of America’s presence in space. Six-member crews will be living and working aboard the International Space Station 24/7 until at least 2020. The ISS will be the centerpiece of America’s human spaceflight activities for the coming years, and the research and technology breakthroughs aboard the station will help us travel to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit.

NASA Langley researchers are among hundreds of NASA workers who are helping to build that future by partnering with industry to develop commercial crew and cargo transportation, while designing crucial components for future exploration — a deep space crew vehicle and an evolvable heavy-lift rocket.

For additional information about NASA Langley, go to:

For more information about the STS-135 mission, visit:

For more information about the space station, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.