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Loading Leonardo


Hey, did someone up there in space order a freezer?

Though they won't fly until the second Return to Flight mission, payloads for STS-121 are being prepared now in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Leonardo, the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module that will transport the payloads in the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, already contains an important piece of cargo: a Space Station-bound freezer known as MELFI.

The Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Leonardo is loaded with a payload at the Space Station Processing Facility. Image at Left: In the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, technicians prepare to install the Minus Eighty Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI) into the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Leonardo. Image Credit: NASA/KSC

MELFI -- the Minus Eighty Degree Laboratory Freezer for the International Space Station -- is provided by the European Space Agency to give the Station crew support in their life science and biological research.

"The addition of MELFI is a significant step forward in cold stowage capabilities onboard ISS," says Rob Kuczada, STS-121 Lead Payload Integration Engineer. "Science samples of various shapes and sizes can now be adequately frozen, stored, and preserved without degradation for later study in ground-based laboratories."

Using four temperature-controlled, insulated containers called "dewars," MELFI can hold up to a total of 300 liters of samples ranging in temperatures from refrigerated to "fast frozen" -- or more precisely, at 4 degrees Celsius, -26 degrees Celsius, and a low of -80 degrees Celsius. The unit, which is one of three produced by the European Space Agency for this purpose, will also ensure experiments will be delivered to the Station at the right temperature by flying fully powered inside Leonardo.

The Minus Eighty Degree Laboratory Freezer for the International Space Station is shown being loaded. Image at Right: A technician moves the MELFI science rack (left) into position for installation into the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Leonardo. Image Credit: NASA/KSC

In addition to MELFI, Leonardo will be loaded with supplies and other cargo for the Space Station. Leonardo and the other two logistics modules -- Raffaello, which will carry the payloads aboard Discovery on STS-114, and Donatello -- were designed and built by the Italian Space Agency, Alenia Spazio, (ASI) for NASA. In return, ASI will gain access to U.S. research time on the Station.

The cylindrical logistics modules act as "moving vans" for the Space Station, carrying cargo and supplies for delivery, and returning spent materials to Earth. Designed to fit in the Space Shuttle cargo bay, each module is approximately 21 feet long and 15 feet in diameter. They weigh almost 4.5 tons and can carry 10 tons of cargo packed into standard "racks". MELFI's units were designed to fit into one of these racks.

Atlantis and its crew, with the Leonardo module on board, are scheduled to deliver the supplies, experiments and other equipment during STS-121, the second Return to Flight mission.

Cheryl L. Mansfield, Staff Writer
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center

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