Alenia Spazio's Space Division reports that its first Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) is being processed at the NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in preparation for its launch to the International Space Station (ISS) in December 1999.

It was shipped to the KSC on an the Airbus A300-600T Beluga cargo plane exhibited at the show.

The launch of the MPLM will allow Italy to become the first European country to join a major component to the ISS, well ahead of the European Space Agency's Columbus Orbital Facility (COF), which won't be joined to the station until at least 2002. Alenia also provides the thermo-mechanics system for the COF.

ESA has supplied the Data management system for the Russian ISS Service Module, which is due to be launched next year. Italy's Alenia is also building two attaching Node modules for the ISS for ESA.

While Italy funds a major part of ESA's ISS programme, it has also developed a national ISS project, providing three MPLMs for launch to the station.

Under an agreement with NASA, the MPLM was originally called the Mini-Pressurised Logistics Module, but its role has been expanded to providing actual laboratory working space.

It will also be the only module launched to the ISS - aboard the Space Shuttle - to be in a pressurised and active mode during ascent.

Source: Flight Daily News