Following on from NASASpaceflight.com’s report that NASA has decided to keep its orbiter Atlantis going till 2010 I emailed the agency to ask them about this. And the answer is…
(Accompanied by recovery vehicles, the Space Shuttle Atlantis is towed up the taxiway at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center following its 1249h local time landing on 22 June 2007 at Edwards Air Force Base in California, following its mission STS-117)“In our press release last week, we mentioned that NASA managers will meet in the coming weeks to address the schedule of remaining shuttle flights beyond STS-123.
As part of that process, while no decisions have been made yet, we are looking at an option that adds two flights to Atlantis after STS-125, and allows us to more efficiently fly out the remaining manifest, using all three orbiters.
This might be the most efficient way to complete the program, but we haven’t made the decision yet.
Also, we are still evaluating whether to add the Station-Shuttle Power Transfer System to Atlantis. Doing so would give us flexibility to schedule missions on any of the three orbiters.
Or, if we had a flight with five spacewalks scheduled for Discovery or Endeavour that we needed to move to Atlantis for some reason, having SSPTS on Atlantis would allow us to retain all five spacewalks, and not redesign the flight to have fewer spacewalks. We are still deciding if this is a big driver for us, or not.
So no, the decision has not been made.”