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Space Shuttle Atlantis now seen in Kennedy Space Center’s VAB Up-Close Tour

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The Up-Close Vehicle Assembly Building Tour began last November at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) is where rockets are built before they are moved to a launch pad. Now, space shuttle orbiter Atlantis is in storage in the VAB. Tour guests can see Atlantis before the orbiter is towed into its new home at the Space Center Visitor Center.

You can see video of Atlantis in the VAB here:

Work continues on the new home for Atlantis.

The new Atlantis gallery is adjacent the Shuttle Launch Experience attraction at the right.

The gallery is starting to define part of the Vistor Center skyline. Here, the gallery towers over the Orbit Cafe.

Atlantis will probably enter the gallery from this side of the building.

As seen from the tour bus loop, with the new gallery at left.

Workers are making steady progress. Compare photos of the site here to our previous article about the gallery.


Atlantis waits to be towed.

The windows have protective covers. Discovery had similar covers up until the morning it was flown to the Smithsonian.

The yellow bars will help stiffen and support the payload bay doors while Atlantis is positioned in the new gallery. Atlantis will be angled for the display with the doors open, as if in orbit.

The crew access hatch currently has a handle and a protective cover on the window.

A section of the insulated fabric panel is removed too.

The docent in the VAB offered us a chance to hold a section of the fabric. It feels as light as any other cloth blanket, although it is made of quartz.

A nearby display had additional examples of the fabric.

The landing wheels will be stowed when Atlantis is displayed in the gallery.


The tail cone is in the VAB now too. The cone is placed over the orbiter’s engines to reduce drag when the orbiter is flown on a 747.

The tail cone will be used for the last time when Endeavour is flown to Los Angeles in September. Endeavour is currently in storage in the building closest to the camera.


Some Orion prototypes are on display in the VAB now.

This is a non-working prototype of the abort rocket that would carry a capsule away in an emergency. Once away, parachutes would deploy and land the capsule on the ground.

This prototype was seen a few years ago at the Visitor Center. This site is now where the Atlantis gallery is under construction. The shuttle prototype seen here is now in Houston.


A prototype of a new capsule and service module.

Compare to an Apollo capsule and service module.


KSC Up-Close: The Vehicle Assembly Building Tour has limited availability. The tour is $25 for adults and $19 for children ages 3-11, in addition to admission.

Visit KennedySpaceCenter.com for more information.

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1 comment

Collin R. Skocik August 14, 2012 - 10:25 am

I just have to make one teeny tiny little correction. The rockets are not built in the Vehicle Assembly Building. They’re built in various contractor facilities. In the VAB they’re stacked; in the old days the old Saturn rockets would have their various stages stacked, with the Apollo command and service module on top, and in the case of the Space Shuttle, the orbiter, solid rocket boosters, and external tank would be fastened together to be rolled out to the pad.

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