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N° 72–2001: ESA Astronaut Frank De Winne to fly to the International Space Station on Soyuz

30 November 2001

ESA astronaut Frank De Winne (*), a Belgian member of the European Astronaut Corps, has been assigned to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) in November 2002 on a Russian Soyuz launcher. He will be flight engineer on a "taxi flight", a 10-day mission with the main purpose of exchanging the Soyuz capsule, which is permanently docked with the Station to serve as a rescue vehicle, if needed.

A substantial scientific experimental programme will also be conducted during the mission, including experiments led by Belgian scientists.

This assignment is one of the results of the agreement for European astronauts to fly to the ISS on Russian Soyuz launchers during the period 2001 to 2006, signed by ESA Director General Antonio Rodotà and the Director General of the Russian Aviation and Space Agency (Rosaviakosmos), Yuri Koptev, early this year. The mission is receiving strong support from the Belgian government, and in particular from the Commissioner for scientific policy, Yvan Ylieff.

The agreement, which also makes provision for "increment flights", crew exchange flights which may require the astronauts to stay on board the Station for up to 3-4 months, is an important step in the development of operational expertise by the European Astronaut Corps before commencing intensive utilisation of the ISS for scientific research, Earth observation, technology development, materials science and human physiology experiments, with the launch of ESA's Columbus laboratory in 2004.

Frank De Winne is the second Belgian astronaut to be assigned to a space mission: the first, Dirk Frimout, flew as payload specialist on the American Space Shuttle mission ATLAS-1 in March/April 1992.

For further information, please contact :

ESA/European Astronaut Centre - Cologne

Jean Coisne

Tel: +49.2203.6001.110/111

Fax: +49.2203.6001.112

Cabinet of the Minister for Scientific Research - Brussels

Emmanuelle Courtheoux

Tel: +32.2.506.57.64

GSM +32.476.63.9908

( *) Personal data

Born in Ghent, Belgium, 25 April 1961, Frank is married and has three children. He enjoys football, small PC applications and gastronomy.


Frank De Winne graduated from the Royal School of Cadets, Lier, in 1979. He received a Masters degree in telecommunications and civil engineering from the Royal Military Academy, Brussels, in 1984. He was awarded the AIA Prize for the best thesis. In 1991, he completed the Staff Course at the Defence College, in Brussels gaining the highest distinction. In 1992, he graduated from the Empire Test Pilots School (ETPS) in Boscombe Down, England, where he was awarded the McKenna Trophy.


Member of the Belgian Armed Forces Flying Personnel Association.

Special honours

In 1977 Frank was the first non-American pilot to receive the Joe Bill Dryden Semper Viper Award for demonstrating exceptional skills during a flight. In July 1999 he was appointed 'Officier in de Orde van Oranje Nassau' by the Dutch Queen for shown leadership during operation Allied Force.


After completing his pilot training with the Belgian Air Force, in 1986, Frank De Winne was an operational pilot on Mirage V aircraft. Detached to the Company SAGEM in Paris in 1989, he then worked in the Mirage Safety Improvement Programme where he was responsible for the preparation of the operational and technical specifications of the Mirage upgrade programme.

In December 1992, he was appointed to the Test and Evaluation branch of the Belgian Air Force. As a test pilot, he was involved in various activities, such as CARAPACE (an electronic warfare programme on F16) at Eglin Air Force Base, USA, and a Self-Protection Programme for the C130 aircraft. During that period, he also flew in Gosselies as a reception pilot in different aircraft types.

From January 1994 to April 1995, Frank De Winne was responsible for the flight safety programme of the 1st Fighter Wing at Beauvechain, Belgium.

From April 1995 to July 1996, as a senior test pilot in the European Participating Air Forces (EPAF), he was detached to Edwards Air Force Base, California, where he worked on the mid-life update of the F16 aircraft, focusing on radar testing.

From 1996 to August 1998, he was senior test pilot in the Belgian Air Force, responsible for all test programmes and for all pilot-vehicle interfaces for future aircraft/software updates.

From August 1998 to January 2000, Frank De Winne was the Squadron Commander of the 349th Fighter Squadron at Kleine Brogel Airbase, Belgium.

During operation Allied Force, Frank De Winne was the detachment commander of the Deployable Air Task Force, a combined Belgian/Dutch detachment that flew about 2000 sorties during this Nato campaign. He has logged 17 combat sorties.

Frank De Winne has logged more than 2300 hours flying time on several types of high-performance aircraft including Mirage, F16, Jaguar and Tornado.

In January 2000, Frank De Winne joined the European Astronaut Corps of the European Space Agency (ESA), whose homebase is the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany.

Current assignment

In August 2001, De Winne took up training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre (GCTC), Star City, near Moscow. Training includes elements of Basic Training for the International Space Station as well as training as Soyuz flight engineer.

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