multi-purpose vehicle

Multi-Purpose Logistics Module

A Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) is a large pressurized container used on Space Shuttle missions to transfer cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS). It is carried in the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle and berthed to the Unity Module, where supplies are offloaded and finished experiments and waste are loaded. The MPLM is then reberthed in the Shuttle for return to Earth.

The modules are 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, Raffaello, and Donatello. While 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 MPLM was originally designed for Space Station Freedom. Initially, it was to be built by Boeing, but in 1992, the Italians announced that they would build a "Mini-Pressurized Logistics Module," able to carry 4500 kg of cargo. After the 1993 redesign, the length was doubled and it was renamed the "Multi-Purpose Logistics Module." Each empty MPLM is approximately long, in diameter, weighs 4.5 tons, and can deliver up to 10 tons of cargo to the ISS.

Donatello is a more capable module than its two siblings, as it is able to carry payloads that require continuous power from construction through to installation on the ISS. Donatello will never fly.

With the early end of the Space Shuttle program in 2010, the two Rafaello and Leonardo modules will fly just ten times based on the current schedule.

Completed missions

Launch Date Mission Shuttle MPLM
8 March 2001 STS-102 ISS 5A.1 Discovery Leonardo
19 April 2001 STS-100 ISS 6A Endeavour Raffaello
10 August 2001 STS-105 ISS 7A.1 Discovery Leonardo
5 December 2001 STS-108 ISS UF-1 Endeavour Raffaello
5 June 2002 STS-111 ISS UF-2 Endeavour Leonardo
26 July 2005 STS-114 ISS LF 1 Discovery Raffaello
4 July 2006 STS-121 ISS ULF 1.1 Discovery Leonardo

Scheduled missions

These MPLM missions are planned for future Space Shuttle flights:
Launch Date Mission Shuttle MPLM
NET 14 November 2008 STS-126 ISS ULF 2 Endeavour Leonardo
NET 30 July 2009 STS-128 ISS 17A Atlantis Leonardo
NET 11 February 2010 STS-131 ISS 19A Atlantis Raffaello
NET: No Earlier Than


  • Length - 6.4 m
  • Width - 4.57 m
  • Mass - 4,082 kg empty; 13,154 kg loaded


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