STS-135 Commander Chris Ferguson and Pilot Doug Hurley take off from the Shuttle Landing Facility runway at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to perform touch-and-go landings aboard their Shuttle Training Aircrafts (STA).
An STA is a Gulfstream II jet that is modified to mimic the shuttle's handling during the final phase of landing. Ferguson and Hurley will practice landings as part of standard training before space shuttle Atlantis' launch to the International Space Station. Atlantis and its crew are targeted to lift off July 8, to deliver the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module packed with supplies and spare parts to the station. The STS-135 mission also will fly a system to investigate the potential for robotically refueling existing satellites and return a failed ammonia pump module to help NASA better understand the failure mechanism and improve pump designs for future systems. STS-135 will be the 33rd flight of Atlantis, the 37th shuttle mission to the space station, and the 135th and final mission of NASA's Space Shuttle Program. For more information visit, www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/sts135/index.html. Photo credit: NASA/Troy Cryder