A Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) is a large pressurized container that was used on Space Shuttle missions to transfer cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Two MPLMs made a dozen trips in the Shuttle cargo bay and initially berthed to the Unity module and later the Harmony module on the ISS. From there, supplies were offloaded, and finished experiments and waste were reloaded. The MPLM was then reberthed in the Shuttle for return to Earth. Three modules were built by the Italian Space Agency (ASI): Leonardo, Raffaello, and Donatello.
The Leonardo module was modified in 2010 to turn it into the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) and was permanently attached to the ISS during the STS-133 mission in March 2011. The Raffaello module in July 2011 was the last ever payload of a NASA Space Shuttle. It returned with the Shuttle and was stored at the Kennedy Space Center. The Donatello module never launched.
An MPLM is a large cylinder equipped with a common berthing mechanism at one end, and grapple fixtures to allow the Canadarm-2 to move it from the shuttle bay to a berthing port on the US Orbital Segment of the ISS.
In order to provide power to equipment and experiments inside the MPLM during launch, the MPLM could be connected to the Shuttle's power supply by means of the Remotely Operated Electrical Umbilical (ROEU). The umbilical was mounted on the starboard side payload bay sidewall longeron, and was a folding arm umbilical that connected to the MPLM while it was in the payload bay. The arm was disconnected and retracted prior to the MPLM being removed for placement on the ISS and then reconnected once the MPLM was placed back inside the payload bay.
The modules were provided to NASA under contract by the Italian Space Agency (ASI). Three MPLMs were built and delivered to NASA and have names chosen by the ASI to denote some of the great talents in Italian history: Leonardo da Vinci, Raffaello and Donatello. Although built by ASI, the modules are owned by NASA. In exchange for building the MPLMs, ASI receives access to U.S. research time on the ISS.
The MPLMs have a heritage that goes back to Spacelab. In addition, ESA's Columbus module, the Harmony and Tranquility ISS modules and the ATV and Cygnus resupply craft all trace their origins to the MPLMs. The MPLM concept was originally created for Space Station Freedom. Initially, they were to be built by Boeing, but in 1992, the Italians announced that they would build a "Mini-Pressurized Logistics Module", able to carry 4,500 kilograms (4.5 t) of cargo. After the 1993 redesign of Freedom, the length was doubled and it was renamed the "Multi-Purpose Logistics Module". Each empty MPLM is approximately 21 feet (6.4 m) long, 15 feet (4.6 m) in diameter, weighs 4,400 kilograms (9,700 lb), and can deliver up to nine metric tons of cargo to the ISS.
Donatello was a more capable module than its two siblings, as it was designed to carry payloads that required continuous power from construction through to installation on the ISS. However, Donatello was never used and some of its parts were cannibalized to convert Leonardo into the PMM.
With the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, the Raffaello and Leonardo modules were flown a combined total of 12 times.
Since the module names are also the names of three of the four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the NASA MPLM Group approached Mirage Studios (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) artist A.C. Farley to design a logo with a ninja turtle in an astronaut flight suit. There were cloisonné pins produced, as well as stickers and embroidered patches. There are supposed to be mission jackets using this design as well. Because the Ninja Turtles are copyrighted by Mirage Studios, NASA gave Mirage the copyright to the logo in exchange for the use of the studio's character on it.
|Flight||Launch Date||Mission||Shuttle||MPLM||Mass Up
|1||8 March 2001||STS-102 ISS 5A.1||Discovery||Leonardo||10,213||6,540|
|2||19 April 2001||STS-100 ISS 6A||Endeavour||Raffaello||8,811||6,763|
|3||10 August 2001||STS-105 ISS 7A.1||Discovery||Leonardo||9,467||7,799|
|4||5 December 2001||STS-108 ISS UF-1||Endeavour||Raffaello||9,228||8,693|
|5||5 June 2002||STS-111 ISS UF-2||Endeavour||Leonardo||10,753||9,140|
|6||26 July 2005||STS-114 ISS LF 1||Discovery||Raffaello||8,301||9,110|
|7||4 July 2006||STS-121 ISS ULF 1.1||Discovery||Leonardo||9,588||8,124|
|8||14 November 2008||STS-126 ISS ULF 2||Endeavour||Leonardo||12,748||6,966|
|9||28 August 2009||STS-128 ISS 17A||Discovery||Leonardo||12,601||8,927|
|10||5 April 2010||STS-131 ISS 19A||Discovery||Leonardo||12,371||9,242|
|11||24 February 2011||STS-133 ISS ULF 5||Discovery||Leonardo PMM||N/A - part of ISS|
|12||8 July 2011||STS-135 ISS ULF 7||Atlantis||Raffaello||9,500||5,660|
The following are the specifications of the MPLM:
The Donatello MPLM has been converted by Lockheed Martin into a Habitat Ground Test Article (HGTA) Lunar habitat prototype which is located at NASA KSC. Leonardo is permanently attached to the ISS as PMM and should reenter in the atmosphere with it. Raffaello remains in storage at the Space Station Processing Facility.