FOX Facts: Space Shuttle Atlantis

NASA has postponed the launch of space shuttle Atlantis because of a faulty fuel tank sensor.

Here are some FOX Facts about Atlantis and STS-115:

NASA's fourth space-rated Space Shuttle orbiter, OV-104 "Atlantis," was named after the two-masted boat that served as the primary research vessel for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts from 1930 to 1966.

Construction of the orbiter Atlantis began on March 3, 1980.

Thanks to lessons learned in the construction and testing of orbiters Enterprise, Columbia and Challenger, Atlantis was completed in about half the time in man-hours spent on Columbia.

Weighing in at 151,315 pounds when it rolled out of the assembly plant in Palmdale, Calif., Atlantis was nearly 3.5 tons lighter than Columbia.

Atlantis arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 9, 1985, and over the next seven months was prepared for her maiden voyage.

On Oct. 3, 1985, Atlantis launched on her first space flight, STS-51-J, with a classified payload for the U.S. Department of Defense. The vehicle went on to carry four more DOD payloads on later missions.

Atlantis also served as the on-orbit launch site for many noteworthy spacecraft, including planetary probes Magellan and Galileo, as well as the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.

Starting with STS-71, Atlantis pioneered the Shuttle-Mir missions, flying the first seven missions to dock with the Russian space station.

On STS-79, the fourth docking mission, Atlantis ferried astronaut Shannon Lucid back to Earth after her record-setting 188 days in orbit aboard Mir.

In recent years, Atlantis has delivered several vital components to the International Space Station, including the U.S. laboratory module, Destiny, as well as the Joint Airlock Quest and multiple sections of the Integrated Truss structure that makes up the Station's backbone.

For the first time since late 2002, assembly of the International Space Station (ISS) will resume on the STS-115 mission.

STS-115 is the 116th space shuttle flight mission and the 27th flight of Atlantis

Astronauts will install a 17-and-a-half ton P3 / P4 truss segment to the port side of the integrated truss system of the orbital outpost.

During their three spacewalks, crew members of Atlantis will install the P3/P4 integrated truss and a second set of solar arrays on the space station, doubling the station’s current ability to generate power from sunlight and adding 17.5 tons to its mass.

STS-115 is expected to last 11 days with the three scheduled spacewalks planned for flight days 4, 5 and 7.

The mission is commanded by Navy Capt. Brent Jett, 47, a veteran of three previous spaceflights, including the STS-97 mission in 2000 to the ISS that delivered the first U.S. solar arrays on the P6 truss structure.

Jett is joined by Navy Capt. Chris Ferguson, 45, a first-time flyer who will serve as the mission's pilot.

Joe Tanner, 56, will lead two teams of spacewalkers in his fourth flight into space. Tanner was a crewmate of Jett's on the STS-97 mission.

Coast Guard Cmdr. Dan Burbank, 45, makes his second flight to the ISS on the STS-115 mission and will serve as flight engineer during launch and landing.

Navy Cmdr. Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper, 43, makes her first spaceflight on Atlantis' mission, joining Tanner for two of the three planned spacewalks.

Canadian Space Agency astronaut Steve MacLean, 51, rounds out the crew and will join Burbank for the second spacewalk of the flight in his second mission into space. He flew a scientific research mission aboard Columbia 14 years ago and will become the second Canadian astronaut to walk in space, following in the footsteps of his colleague, Chris Hadfield.

(Sources: STS-115 Mission Media Kit, NASA)