Italian Space Agency commissioner Enrico Saggese is looking forward to getting his own International Space Station laboratory if NASA decides it needs a multipurpose logistics module (MPLM) permanently attached to the ISS.
The ISS is facing a cargo and spare parts resupply challenge with the retirement of NASA's Space Shuttle fleet in 2010, and the US space agency is considering leaving a module at the ISS. An MPLM can carry 9,400kg (20,600lb) of cargo. ASI owns the design and Thales Alenia Space has built three modules - Raffaello, Donatello and Leonardo - but they are the property of NASA.
Saggese says that the MPLM used would be Raffaello and that "for Italy we look forward to having a permanent module as a lab. An Italian lab attached to the space station is more important than having an Italian warehouse attached to the space station."
The MPLM has 16 standard ISS equipment racks that can be used for laboratory experiments. A national laboratory would represent good value for the Italian taxpayer, says Saggese, and it could lead to additional missions for Italian members of the European Space Agency astronaut corps.
Saggese says ASI has already spoken with ESA director-general Jean-Jacques Dordain about an agreement that would be advantageous to Italy and the ESA, such as another laboratory. ESA's Columbus laboratory was delivered to the space station by Shuttle in February 2008.
Saggese's predecessor Giovanni Bignami said in April 2008 that ASI had informed NASA that the agency was prepared to spend €22 million ($30.7 million) to help prepare Raffaello for the permanent attachment. In early 2008 NASA had rejected the permanent MPLM idea but has since changed its view.