Status Report

The third MPLM leaves for Cape Canaveral

By SpaceRef Editor
January 31, 2001
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The third flight unit of the inhabitable MPLM (Multipurpose Pressurised Logistics Module) for the Space Station leaves today from Turin-Caselle Airport for the United States on board a Beluga, the modified Airbus-300 for the transportation of exceptional loads. "Donatello" was built for the Italian Space Agency (ASI) by Alenia Spazio in Turin.
With the departure of this final unit for Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, Alenia Spazio completes the construction of the fleet of logistic modules that, starting next March, will fly between the Earth and the International Space Station.
Carried on board the Shuttle, the MPLMs will supply the Station with vital elements for its construction and operation. Although the Station has been permanently manned since last October by three astronauts — the American commander Shepherd, plus the Russians Krikalev and Gidzenco — it is still in the assembly phase.
DONATELLO will join its twin modules LEONARDO and RAFFAELLO that were transferred to KSC in the summer of ’98 and ’99. After having undergone a complex series of integration tests with the rest of the Station, these latter are now ready to start the series of Shuttle flights, scheduled for beginning of March (Leonardo) and April (Raffaello). Donatello, on the other hand, will enter official service next year. Nominally, 4 MPLM flights are slated each year so as to provide the Space Station with all the equipment needed to complete its on-orbit assembly and supply the astronauts with everything they need to live on the Station, primarily air, food and water.
Built on behalf of ASI — that drew up an bilateral agreement in 1991 to define Italian participation in the design and operational management of the Space Station — MPLM is the "technological forerunner" of the new generation of manned modules and a fundamental element of the logistics of the entire International Space Station. 15 different countries are participating in the programme — a truly global co-operation.
Designed and constructed by Alenia Spazio, with the participation of the major Italian industries in the sector, the MPLMs are the first and most essential Italian contribution to the realisation of the most important space project ever.
Italian industry’s considerable contribution will continue with the construction of key Station elements such as the European COLUMBUS laboratory; the two interconnecting NODES 1 and 2; and the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), a logistic payload module launched with Ariane 5 principally to supply the Station with fuel.
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SpaceRef staff editor.