Multi-Purpose Logistics Module

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The Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module rests in Discovery's payload bay in this view taken from the ISS by a crew member using a digital still camera during STS-102.
The Raffaello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, when berthed to the ISS during STS-114

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.[1]

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. In July 2011, the Raffaello module was the primary payload on the final Space Shuttle mission. It returned with the Shuttle and was stored at the Kennedy Space Center. The Donatello module never launched.

MPLMs were flown on 12 of the 37 Space Shuttle missions to the ISS.


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.[1]

The MPLMs have a heritage that goes back to Spacelab.[2] 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.[2] 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.[1]

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.[3]

With the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, the Raffaello and Leonardo modules were flown a combined total of 12 times.


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.

Power during launch[edit]

Remotely Operated Electrical Umbilical diagram

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.


MPLM logo

Since the module names are also the names of three of the four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the NASA MPLM Group approached Mirage Studios artist A.C. Farley to design a logo featuring Raphael in an astronaut flight suit.[4] There were cloisonné pins produced, as well as stickers and embroidered patches. Because the Ninja Turtles were created by Mirage Studios and owned by them at the time, NASA gave Mirage the copyright to the logo in exchange for the use of the studio's character on it.[4]


Cosmonaut Yuri Gidzenko in Leonardo in 2001
Flight Launch date Mission Shuttle MPLM Mass up
(kg)[citation needed]
Mass down
(kg)[citation needed]
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[5] 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 Part of ISS
12 8 July 2011 STS-135 ISS ULF 7[4] Atlantis Raffaello 9,500 5,660


The following are the specifications of the MPLM:

Future use[edit]

The Donatello MPLM has been converted by Lockheed Martin into a Habitat Ground Test Article (HGTA) Lunar habitat prototype[7] 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.

Axiom Space plans to use a Multi-Purpose module for the Axiom Commercial Space Station.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules". NASA. 2007.
  2. ^ a b "A new European science laboratory in Earth orbit" (PDF). European Space Agency.
  3. ^ "Spaceflight Now - STS-133 Shuttle Report - Roomy addition for space station ready to launch".
  4. ^ a b c "Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Office". NASA MSFC. Archived from the original on March 21, 2009. Retrieved February 22, 2009.
  5. ^ Gebhardt, Chris (2008-08-25). "STS-128 – Atlantis' 2009 mission baselined by PRCB". Retrieved 2020-11-25.
  6. ^ a b c d NASA. "What is MPLM?". Archived from the original on 27 May 2010. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  7. ^ Returning Astronauts to the Moon: Lockheed Martin Finalizes Full-Scale Cislunar Habitat Prototype
  8. ^ "Axiom Station". 24 July 2017.