The Space Shuttle Project

KSC press site panorama, final launch of space shuttle Atlantis, STS-135

STS-135 Launch Panorama

Space shuttle Atlantis heads for orbit during the final launch of the space shuttle program.  The wideangle lens used in this 360° panorama makes the press site at Kennedy Space Center seem oddly empty, a huge number of people were on hand to witness the final launch of the 30-year program. Click image to view […]

Space shuttle Atlantis clears the tower, STS-135, Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

Handoff to Houston

Space shuttle Atlantis clears the tower on the final launch of the space shuttle program, STS-135. Once clear of the tower, control is transferred from the Kennedy Space Centre to Mission Control in Houston for the duration of the flight.

Condensation cones around space shuttle Atlantis' Solid Rocket Boosters, STS-135

Booster Max Q

Condensation clouds form around the nose of Atlantis’ solid rocket boosters as the space shuttle makes the transition to supersonic speed. The effect can be seen below, in a frame taken from one of NASA’s HD video cameras mounted to the External Tank:


Chris Hadfield, Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

Chris Hadfield

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield gives an interview at the press site of the Kennedy Space Centre.  Hadfield flew on two shuttle missions, STS-74 (Atlantis) and STS-100 (Endeavour).

Final launch of space shuttle Atlantis, STS-135, over a dry lake bed

Monsoon Season

A remote camera set up on a dry lake bed captures space shuttle Atlantis clearing the tower during launch of STS-135. Heavy rains preceding launch day dramatically changed the nature of this photograph, turning the foreground from a brilliant landscape of caked and broken earth to something approaching a mudbowl.

Gentleman on cell phone, final launch of space shuttle Atlantis, STS-135

Important Business

A gentleman conducts important business on his phone as Atlantis reaches for the clouds, mere seconds after the final launch of the space shuttle program.


Wall of cameras and photographers, final launch of space shuttle Atlantis, STS-135

Camera Wall

Photographers form a solid wall at the Kennedy Space Centre’s press site, in preparation for the final launch of the entire space shuttle program.

Quilt of all space shuttle mission patches, Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

Mission Quilt

Long-time NASA employees display a quilt of every single space shuttle mission patch, dating back to the first launch in 1981 of STS-1.

Photographers in front of space shuttle Atlantis, STS-135, Kennedy Space Centre, Florida

Economies of Scale

Photographers give scale to the enormity of the manned US space program, setting up their cameras at the foot of the launch pad in preparation for the final launch of the 30-year space shuttle program.


STS-135 final launch of space shuttle Atlantis from remote launch pad camera

Wonderful Profile

Space shuttle Atlantis clears the tower for the final time, signalling the end of the space shuttle program.

Final launch of space shuttle Endeavour, STS-134

Orbit, Ho!

Riding 30 stories of fire, twin solid rocket boosters propel space shuttle Endeavour toward low earth orbit on the final launch of her career, and the penultimate launch of the entire 30-year long space shuttle Program.

STS-134 final launch of space shuttle Endeavour clears the tower LC-39A

Tower Clearance

Space shuttle Endeavour, STS-134, clears the tower on the final launch of her career as seen from the Banana Creek viewing site.


Final crew of space shuttle Endeavour, STS-134

Endeavour Boys

The Endeavour boys (from left to right Mark Kelly, commander; Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel, European Space Agency’s Roberto Vittori, Michael Fincke, and Gregory H. Johnson, pilot) ham it up for the cameras upon their arrival at the Kennedy Space Centre for the second launch attempt of space shuttle Endeavour, STS-134.

Closeup of final launch of space shuttle Endeavour, STS-134

Where The Wind Blows

Wreathed in her own launch plume, space shuttle Endeavour lifts off on the final launch of her career, hauling the US $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station. After landing, she’ll be processed and turned over to the California Science Center for permanent display.

Osprey nest in front of VAB, Kennedy Space Centre

NASA Marshalls

A family of ospreys stand watch in their nest, framed by the NASA ‘meatball’ logo on the side of the Vehicle Assembly Building.


Flag for space shuttle Endeavour, STS-134

Flag Forward

Endeavour’s flag flies proudly over Launch Complex 39A. This is actually a fairly difficult shot to get, 95% of the time the wind blows the flag backwards.

Space shuttle Endeavour, STS-134, light by xenon lights on the launch pad at night

Endeavour Xenon

Space shuttle Endeavour, shortly after rollback of the Rotating Service Structure, sits bathed in Xenon lights for the final time.

Final launch of space shuttle Endeavour, STS-134

Cloudburst

Space shuttle Endeavour disappears into the clouds 22 seconds after liftoff, seen across the water from the Banana Creek viewing site.


Zero days to launch sign in front of the VAB, final launch of space shuttle Endeavour, STS-134

Zero Days

A sign on the roadway leading to NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building proclaims the day of launch for space shuttle Endeavour, STS-134.

STS-134 final launch of space shuttle Endeavour in near infrared

Infrared Liftoff

A camera modified to photograph the near-infrared wavelength of light captures the final launch of space shuttle Endeavour, STS-134, as seen from the Dike Road.

STS-133 space shuttle Discovery Thermal Protection System belly tiles

Belly of the Beast

Secured in the Orbiter Processing Facility after her successful STS-133 mission, space shuttle Discovery is prepared for decomissioning and display at the Smithsonian Institution. Underneath Discovery and looking forward from roughly amidships, the orbiter’s Thermal Protection System tiles stretch forward toward the nose landing gear.


STS-133 final launch of space shuttle Discovery panorama

STS-133 Launch Panorama

Space shuttle Discovery soars into the Florida skies, as seen in this 180° panorama taken from Astronaut Road. The massive Vehicle Assembly Building can be seen on the right, and Launch Complex 39B on the left. Click image to view larger.

STS-133 RSS Rollback Thumbnail

STS-133 RSS Rollback (timelapse)

The Rotating Service Structure is rolled back from space shuttle Discovery for the final time, revealing the veteran orbiter over the course of 45 minutes for launch the next day.

STS-133 space shuttle Discovery launch plume

Launch of STS-133 (audio)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen] Space shuttle Discovery, STS-133, roars into orbit, the crackling thunder of her twin Solid Rocket Boosters threatening to overwhelm the microphone.