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    ISS Missions 1998-2006[Old]

    ISS Elements: Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules (MPLM)

    As has been the case with all previous space stations, the reliable delivery of propellant, hardware, and other supplies is crucial to the nominal operations of the International Space Station (ISS). A variety of logistics carriers will be used to carry materials to the ISS - and return them to Earth. The Space Shuttle has the greatest lift and most varied range of resupply capabilities. The Space Shuttle is capable of bringing materials up in its middeck or by use of a Spacehab module or unpressurized logistics carriers mounted in its cargo bay.

    The prime means of carrying large amounts of supplies and hardware to the ISS - and returning items to Earth - is by use of Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules (MPLM). MPLMs are carried to and from the ISS in the cargo bay of a Space Shuttle Orbiter. MPLMs are pressurized throughout their mission - however there is no tunnel to connect them with the Shuttle's crew cabin during transport.

    Other logistics capabilities reside in the Progress unmanned resupply vehicle and to a limited extent within Soyuz spacecraft. Further down the road ESA will provide its ATV (Automated Transport Vehicle) and Japan will provide its HTV (Hope Transport Vehicle) for resupply purposes. Both the HTV and ATV will dock to the ISS in a fashion more or less identical to that used by Progress and Soyuz spacecraft.

    MPLMs are 21 feet long, 15 feet wide, and weigh 4.5 tons empty. When fully loaded they can carry up to 10 tons of cargo. Cargo is packed into 16 standard ISS equipment racks. This cargo includes systems racks for installation on the ISS, experiment racks (ISPR) also for installation on the ISS, Resupply Stowage Racks (used to carry materials up and down), and other materials. Of the 16 racks the module can carry, five rack locations can be furnished with the power, data, and cooling fluid lines required to support a refrigerator/freezer. At first MPLMs will not carry refrigerator/freezers. This capability will be added later so as to allow experiment samples and food to be transported to the ISS and research samples and medical specimens to be return from the ISS to Earth.

    When the Orbiter arrives at the ISS, the Shuttle's Remote Manipulator System (RMS - i.e. its robotic arm) is used to take the MPLM out of the cargo bay and attach it to a docking port on the ISS. During its stay in space the MPLM provides additional stowage space - something that is always at a premium. Sufficient volume is provided within the MPLM for two crew members to work simultaneously. One of the more complex tasks that will be performed within an MPLM is the removal of entire payload (ISPR) or systems racks for installation in the ISS or the installation of various racks for return to Earth. In order to function as an ISS module MPLMs has some life support, fire detection and suppression, electrical distribution, and Data Management System capabilities.

    The MPLM remains on orbit until such time as the contents being delivered to the ISS have been removed and items to be returned to Earth have been installed within the MPLM. The MPLM is then undocked from the ISS and moved to the cargo bay of a shuttle using the RMS and is then return to Earth. Items are removed form the MPLM at NASA KSC. The MPLM is then refurbished and prepared for re-use. To ensure that an MPLM is always ready for use, the ISS program has 3 MPLMs.

    The MPLMs are provided to the ISS program by Italy (independent of Italy's role as a member state of ESA) to NASA and are considered to be U.S. elements. In a bartered exchange for providing these modules, the U.S. has given Italy research time aboard the ISS out of the U.S. allotment in addition to that which Italy receives as a member of ESA. The MPLMs were manufactured at the Alenia Aerospazio factory in Turin, Italy. Additional outfitting of these MPLMs was performed at NASA KSC. All MPLMs will be integrated for launch and refurbished after return at NASA KSC by a team composed of NASA, ASI, Alenia Aerospazio, and Boeing personnel.

    The three MPLMs bear the names "Leonardo", "Raffaello", and "Donnatello". ASI, the Italian Space Agency, chose the names to represent important figures in Italian history: "Leonardo" after inventor/scientist/artist Leonardo da Vinci; "Donnatello" after sculptor Donato di Niccolo DI Betto Bardi; and "Raffaello" after artist Raffaello Sanzio. Leonardo was delivered to KSC in 1998 and will fly to the ISS on mission 5A.1 /STS-102 in early 2001. Leonardo will be carrying equipment and supplies to outfit the US Laboratory Module. Raffaello was delivered in 1999 and will first fly to the ISS on ISS-6A / STS-100 in 2001. Donnatello, was delivered to KSC in 2000.

    [Note: the acronym "MPLM" used to stand for "Mini-Pressurized Logistics Module". During the various space station redesigns in 1992/1994 various modules were reduced in size to save weight. The Space Station Freedom program's larger PLM (Pressurized Logistics Module) was reduced in size and dubbed the "mini" PLM. The acronym stuck, but as the program evolved, the original name did not.]


    MPLM Operations Documents

  • International Space Station Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Book 6A, Mission Operations Directorate, JSC-48633-6A, 3 April 2001 [Acrobat]

    This 159 page document deals with all aspects of docking, undocking, loading, and unloading of the MPLM on the STS-100/ISS-6A mission.


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