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Multi Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) Fact Sheet (03/01)

The Italian Space Agency (ASI)-built Leonardo Multi Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) is the first of three such pressurized modules that will serve as the International Space Station's (ISS) "moving vans," carrying laboratory racks filled with equipment, experiments and supplies to and from the Space Station aboard the Space Shuttle. The second and third modules are named Raffaello and Donatello. The Italian Space Agency chose the names of the modules because they represent some of the great engineers in Italian history: Leonardo da Vinci; Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi; and Raffaello Sanzio.

The Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama is working through a Task Agreement to the International Space Station (ISS) Program Office for engineering oversight of MPLM development, analytical integration for the first MPLM flight, and sustaining engineering of the MPLM modules. The MPLM MSFC staff is under the supervision of the MSFC Flight Projects Directorate.

The un-piloted, reusable MPLM functions has both a cargo carrier and a space station module. Mounted in the Space Shuttle's cargo bay for launch and landing, the modules are transferred to the station using the Shuttle's robotic arm after the Shuttle has docked. While berthed to the station, racks of equipment and stowage items are unloaded from the module and racks and equipment may be reloaded to be transported back to Earth. The MPLM is then detached from the station and positioned back into the Shuttle's cargo bay for the trip home. When in the cargo bay, the cargo module is independent of the Shuttle cabin, and there is no passageway for Shuttle crew members to travel from the Shuttle cabin to the module. The cylindrical module is approximately 21 feet long and 15 feet in diameter, weighing almost 4.5 tons. It can carry up to 10 tons of cargo packed into 16 standard space station equipment racks. Of the 16 racks the module can carry, five can be furnished with power, data and fluid to support refrigerators or freezers.

In order to function as an attached station module as well as a cargo transport, the logistics modules also includes components that provide life support, fire detection and suppression, electrical distribution and computer functions. Eventually, the MPLM will carry refrigerators or freezers for transporting experiment samples and food to and from the station. Although built in Italy, the logistics modules, technically known as Multi Purpose Logistics Modules (MPLMs), are owned by NASA. They were provided in exchange for Italian access to U.S. research time on the space station.

The Leonardo module will be launched on Shuttle mission STS-102, Mission 5A.1. On that flight, Leonardo will be filled with equipment and supplies to outfit the U.S. laboratory module, which has been carried to the station on a preceding Shuttle flight. Leonardo was delivered to Kennedy from Italy in August 1998 by a special Beluga cargo aircraft. The second module, named Raffaello, was delivered to Kennedy in July of 1999 under the supervision of MSFC MPLM staff. The third module, named Donatello, was delivered to Florida early 2001.