Earlier in the day Space Shuttle Atlantis was delivered into the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) from the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF). This is known as the Rollover we are now ready for the Lift and Mate.
The Lift and Mate involves fitting a lifting rig to the orbiter by four attachment points, moving the orbiter into a vertical position then lifting it into the VAB high bay where the External Tank (ET) and Solid Rocket Boosters are waiting for it. The orbiter is finally lowered into place where is is connected to the ET and SRBs by the 3 attachment points that were used to mount it on the transporter.
This whole process takes many hours as the engineers have to stop the movement and wait for the orbiter to stop swinging at a number of points in the lift. During these periods engineers take photographs of the heat shield tiles for reference comparisons against in-flight images.
More details of the Lift and Mate together with a photo gallery follow: READ MORE »