With Space Shuttle Endeavour in space completing its final missions, the shuttle Atlantis has been moved in to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) in preparation for the final shuttle mission, STS-135, on July 8 around 11:40 AM EDT.
|Atlantis rolls over from the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF-1, at right) processing hanger to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB, at left) at KSC for the STS-135 mission. Credit: Ken Kremer|
A wonderful set of photos has been uploaded of this transition. You can really see some of the wear and tear on the shuttle. You also get an impression of the massive scale of things. You can find another set here.
|The all veteran STS-135 crew poses with Atlantis during rollover to the VAB. Credit: Ken Kremer|
If you don't know much about the VAB, located at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, here are a couple facts:
- It's the fourth largest building in the world by volume
- The largest single-story building in the world
- Originally built to allow vertical assembly of the Saturn V rocket for the Apollo program, the space shuttles were designed around the building's doors.
- The painted American flag on the building's exterior is one of the world's largest, the blue area is the size of a basketball court and each stripe is the width of a standard road lane.
- The building has withstood several direct encounters with hurricanes and tropical storms with minimal damage, with a foundation consisting of 30,000 cubic yards of concrete and 4,225 steel rods driven 160 feet into limestone bedrock.
- The four doors to the bays inside the building are the four largest doors in the world. At 456 feet (139.0 m) high, it takes 45 minutes for the doors to completely close or open.
- The building is so vast inside, it has its own weather. Rain clouds have formed beneath the ceiling on very humid days. The air can be completely replaced in an hour to keep moisture under control.
|Aerial view of the VAB. Credit: NASA|
As you can see, the building itself is a technological marvel and an asset to the space program. Despite the end of the shuttle missions, the building will remain a key asset. It will continue to be used in the assembly of rockets for space missions. For further reading on the VAB, check out NASA's page on it, or its Wikipedia article.