Atlantis' Almost Final Flight

Space Shuttle Atlantis is looking good for its almost final flight on Friday at 2:20pm EDT. Almost final? Yes, this is the final 'planned' flight of Atlantis, but the orbiter will not be officially retired until after the final Shuttle mission in November because it will remain on standby as an emergency rescue shuttle in case of a failure that prevents Endeavour from landing. Essentially it will be a launch-on-need vehicle and won't have an official STS mission number.

STS-132 is Atlantis' 32nd flight and will carry a Russian research module MRM1, and an integrated cargo carrier to the ISS. MRM1 will be attached to the Zarya module and will not only provide research capability, but also a refueling module that enables visiting Soyuz and Progress spacecraft to transfer propellant to the station.

 STS-132 Mission Patch

Three spacewalks are planned for the 12 day mission, which began its official countdown today. Spacers will be covering the launch on Friday, so keep it tuned to your favorite space blog.

Image credit: NASA/Crew of STS-132

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