Alexander Gerst during training during briefing before EVA train
ESA astronaut Alex Gerst during spacewalk training at EAC

Astronaut training division

Preparing men and women for working on the International Space Station is a complex process but with high rewards. Training is coordinated between the Station’s international partners, each being responsible for instructing astronauts in the operation of their elements.

ESA’s astronaut training focuses on the Agency’s participation in the Station. For all Station astronauts, three training phases are completed before a crewmember is declared ready for flight: Basic, Pre-assignment and Assigned Crew.

Robotics training

New recruits spend 18 months in Basic Training, which includes modules in spaceflight engineering, electrical engineering and other sciences relevant to human space activities. Another module deals with Station systems. Basic Training concludes with special skills such as scuba diving for spacewalks, robotics, rendezvous and docking, Russian language, and human behaviour and performance.

Pre-assignment Training concentrates on special skills for onboard operations. It focuses on robotics, spacewalks, language, and human behaviour and performance skills. Aptitude tests help managers to select crews with the right mix of skills for a specific flight.

The last phase, Assigned Crew Training, starts when an astronaut is selected for a mission. Over about two and half years, an astronaut will travel between the training sites of all five Station partner organisations, gaining the knowledge and skills required for their specific flight. Station tasks are distributed between the astronauts who live and work together on the orbital outpost, so training is individually tailored for each crewmember.

EAC has a variety of training tools and facilities to support crew training. Astronauts practise normal operations, recover from malfunctions and train to replace failed equipment.

Columbus Trainer

Training mockups at EAC

The Columbus laboratory on the International Space Station is Europe’s research facility in space. At EAC a simulator offers hands-on training for commanding and monitoring all of its systems.

ESA experiment training hardware

Separate training models of all five experiment facilities available in the Columbus space laboratory, BioLab, Fluid Science Lab, European Physiology Module, Muscle Research Lab and European Drawer Rack, are installed at EAC for further training.

ATV mock-up and simulator

The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) mock-up, combined with a mock-up Russian Zvezda module, allows astronauts to train unloading and reloading ESA’s supply and support ferry ATV. The training facility also offers rendezvous and docking training and crew safety procedures.

Training in the Neutral Buoyancy Facility

Last update: 29 November 2013

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