Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Cargo module on move from shuttle to station

More than 17,000 pounds of supplies and equipment are a step closer to their new home on the International Space Station.

Discovery astronauts have lifted the cylindrical module holding the cargo from the shuttle payload bay and are swinging it a short distance to a docking port on the Harmony module.

Mission specialists Stephanie Wilson and Naoko Yamazaki grabbed hold of the Italian-built module named Leonardo with the station's 58-foot robotic arm. Pilot Jim Dutton is assisting the work going on at the Destiny lab's robotics station.

Technically called a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, or MPLM, and often referred to as a "moving van," the module measures 21 feet long and 15 feet in diameter.

One of three built for the Italian Space Agency, all named after famous artists and inventors, Leonardo is making its seventh flight. The other two, Donatello and Raffaello, rest in Kennedy Space Center's Space Station Processing Facility.

After one more return trip home packed with thousands of pounds of trash and experiment samples, NASA plans to harden the module so it can be left permanently on the station on one of the final shuttle flights. The MPLM will turn into a PMM -- "Permanent Multipurpose Module."

The module now holds 16 refrigerator-sized racks, including four that will add to the station's science capabilities: a science experiment holder, a freezer for biological samples, a darkroom and a machine for measuring muscle and bone loss in microgravity.

Leonardo should be installed on the station shortly after midnight, and opened by the crew around 8 a.m.

For a more detailed schedule of events, check out this revised ("Rev C") NASA TV schedule and the Flight Day 4 Execute Package of messages e-mailed to the crew.

No comments: