KENNEDY SPACE CENTER—Atlantis lifted off Friday at 11:29 A.M. Eastern time after a last-moment hold at 31 seconds on its 33rd and final mission—both for it and NASA's 30-year-old manned space shuttle program, putting on hiatus the era of human access to low Earth orbit on board U.S. spacecraft. The launch and orbital insertion were flawless.
This flight, tagged STS 135, the 135th of the program, carries a crew of four shuttle veterans, Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, along with mission specialists Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus.
During Atlantis's 12-day mission the crew will deliver the Italian Space Agency's reusable Raffaello Multipurpose Logistics Module loaded with around 3,500 kilograms of science experiments, supplies, logistics and spare parts to the International Space Station. It will also carry an experimental package to determine if existing satellites can be refueled robotically is feasible. The crew will also return with a failed ammonia pump module after it is retrieved from the station during a spacewalk by Expedition 28 astronauts Mike Fossum and Ron Garan. NASA Engineers plan to analyze its failure to improve future designs. Another important job: bring back 2,350 kilograms of space station trash, broken equipment and dirty laundry in Raffaello.
Image of launch: NASA
Below is a live stream from NASA, with replays of the launch.