STS-108 will be the 12th space shuttle mission to visit the International Space Station and the 4th mission to utilize the Italian Multipurpose Logistics Module (MPLM). There are three MPLMs and this flight will use the one called Raffaello which flew once before on STS-100. Raffaello will be attached to the stations Unity node while unloading its cargo, much of which will be transfered into the U.S. Lab called Destiny. Eight resupply stowage racks and four resupply stowage platforms will be unloaded.
The flight will also feature a spacewalk to install thermal blankets over the Beta Gimbal Assemblies (BGAs) at the bases of the space station's solar panels. The BGAs, mounted atop the stations P6 Truss, control the panels to keep them at an optimal angle in relation to the sun.
Other Payloads on this mission include the Lightweight Mission Peculiar Support Structure Carrier (LMC) with four Get Away Special (GAS) experiments and the Multiple Application Customized Hitchhiker-1 (MACH-1) Payload. The MACH-1 payload contains the Starshine, Capilary Pumped Loop Experiment-3, the Prototype Synchrotron Radiation Detector, two Space Experiment Modules containing multiple small experiments and a GAS canister containing seven experiments.
Just forward of the Hitchhiker, on the right payload bay wall, are two GAS containers, one housing seven experiments from Utah State University and the other with an experiment looking at smoldering combustion in microgravity. Behind Raffaello, at the rear of the cargo bay, is the Lightweight Multipurpose Experiment Support Structure Carrier (LMC), with four more GAS canisters. One has three Penn State University experiments and another contains 10 student experiments. A third houses a Swedish Space Corp. experiment focusing on weak Marangoni flows and the fourth, from Ames Research Center, is a test of a prototype instrument cooler for planetary missions. In Endeavour's middeck area will be the Avian Development Facility and the Commercial Biomedical Testing Module Animal Enclosure Module. The Avian Development Facility is flown to validate subsystems and will contain two experiments on development in space of Japanese quail eggs. The Animal Enclosure Module is a commercial experiment using mice and seeking information that could lead to better treatment of osteoporosis in humans.