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Discovery to fly with permanent space module to ISS

The Leonardo multi-purpose logistics module visible in Discovery's payload bay. A NASA photo

WASHINGTON (BNS): NASA's space shuttle Discovery, which is set to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) in November, will carry the Leonardo space module to permanently dock it with the orbital station.

The Italian-built Leonardo multi-purpose logistics module (MPLM), which has so far been used to ferry supplies, equipment, experiments and other cargo to and from the ISS via the space shuttle’s payload bay, will now find a permanent place in space, according to NASA.

Scientists are busy converting the Leonardo MPLM into PMM – permanent multipurpose module.

“There are three basic types of modifications that were performed to make the conversion from the MPLM to the PMM (Permanent Multipurpose Module).

“The first has to do with weight. We tried to reduce the weight of the module as much as possible by eliminating hardware that we didn't need for the long-duration stay on orbit to allow us to carry more useful cargo up to space on STS-133,” explains Scott Higginbotham, the payload mission manager for space shuttle Discovery’s STS-133 flight.

The second set of modifications was aimed at making the module's interior more user-friendly to the station crew members.

The biggest change, however, was to prepare the PMM to spend 10 years exposed to the rigours of space instead of the 10 days it might previously have been outside the protection of the shuttle during a mission.

“Probably most significantly we had to armour the exterior of the module so that it can withstand the micrometeoroid and hypervelocity debris impacts over the 10 years that it'll be on the station.

“Rather than modify the external shields, which are made of metal, which was going to be heavy and expensive, the clever idea that both we and the Italians came up with was to install a micrometeoroid mattress, which is basically a bullet-proof vest for the station that lies underneath the metallic shield and on top of the pressure vessel,” Higginbotham said.

Once all the modifications are complete, the new Leonardo will fly along with the STS-133 payload aboard Discovery for a long-term tenure at the ISS.


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