Shuttles No More: A Look Inside NASA’s Massive Orbiter Processing Facilities

space-shuttle-endeavour (Image: NASA, public domain)

In her article Space Shuttle: The End of an Era, Valerie Neal writes:

“I noticed the difference immediately. The empty slots on the badge board on the wall leading to the entrance signaled that no one was at work inside. The check-in desk was vacant, with only a few papers strewn about. The central space normally filled by Discovery and three stories of surrounding work platforms was an empty cavern. With work stands and protective pads stowed to the side, tool boxes closed and locked, computers idled, the hangar and its warren of work areas normally humming with activity stood eerily silent. OPF-3 felt suddenly abandoned. It reminded me of Pompeii.”

And so it was that, with the end of the Space Shuttle programme, NASA’s three cavernous hangars known as Orbiter Processing Facilities fell quiet. Today, OPF-3 is back in use, this time by Boeing in the development of its CST-100 spacecraft. But across the road, OPF-1 and OPF-2, once home to shuttles Atlantis and Endeavour respectively, stand inactive.

orbiter-processing-facilities-1-2 (Image: NASA, public domain)

In this article we take a nostalgic look back at the three famous hangars and their assigned orbiters. Meanwhile, find out how the Space Shuttles got their names.

OPF-1 (assigned shuttle: Atlantis)








opf-1-atlantis-8 (Images: NASA (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8), public domain)

OPF-2 (assigned shuttle: Endeavour)





opf-2-shuttle (Images: NASA (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), public domain)

OPF-3 (assigned shuttle: Discovery)






opf-3-discovery-6 (Images: NASA (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), public domain)



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