ESA title
Back to Index French German Full story
Science & Exploration

N° 30–2001: More European astronauts to fly to the International Space Station on Russian spacecraft.

22 May 2001

First assignment for Italian ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori.

ESA's Director General Antonio Rodotà and the Director General of the Russian Aviation and Space Agency (Rosaviakosmos) Yuri Koptev recently signed an agreement for European astronauts to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) on Russian Souyz launchers in the period 2001 to 2006.


ESA astronauts will perform the duties of flight engineer in both "taxi flights" and "increment flights". "Taxi flights" are short-duration flights (7-8 days) to the International Space Station with the purpose of exchanging the Soyuz capsule, which is permanently docked to the Station to be used as a rescue vehicle. "Increment flights" are crew exchange flights which may require the astronauts to stay on board the Station for up to 3-4 months.

The agreement (technically know as a "Framework agreement") sets the general principles, terms and conditions of the ESA-Rosaviakosmos co-operation while the type of flight, the experimental programme content and the cost of each specific flight will be negotiated accordingly on a case-by-case basis. The total package price will include the cost for the training, planning and preparation of the missions, the on board stay, the up-load and download of flight equipment needed for the specific experimental programme. The number of flight opportunities is currently not specified, but it will be in the order of one mission per year.

This agreement represents an important step in the development of operational expertise for the European Astronaut Corps before commencing intensive utilisation of the International Space Station for scientific research, Earth observation, technology development, material science and human physiology experiments, with the launch of ESA's Columbus laboratory in 2004. "The agreement supports the Russian effort in the space arena with the involvement of European professional astronauts and it shows a further sign of the increasingly strong co-operation between ESA and Rosaviakosmos," said ESA's Director General Antonio Rodotà.

The Italian Space Agency ASI has already taken the first option for a flight by an ESA astronaut. Roberto Vittori (*), an Italian national and a member of the ESA's Astronaut Corps since 1998, will receive his first assignment as flight engineer on the first available Soyuz taxi flight after October 2001.

For further information, please contact

ESA Media Relations

Franco Bonacina

Tel. ++ 33 1 5369 7155

Fax. ++ 33 1 5369 7690

ASI Press Office

Francesco Rea

Tel. ++39 06 8567 235

Fax. ++39 06 8416 265

(*) Curriculum vitae of Roberto Vittori

Roberto Vittori

European Space Agency (ESA) Astronaut

Personal data:

Born 15 October 1964 in Viterbo, Italy. Married to Valeria née Nardi of Citta' di Castello, Italy. They have two children. Enjoys playing soccer, running, swimming and reading.


Graduated from the Italian Air Force Academy in 1989. Completed pilot training with the U.S. Air Force at Reese Air Force Base in Texas, US, in 1990. Graduated from U.S. Navy Test Pilot School in 1995. Completed the Italian Air Force's Accident Prevention course (Guidonia Air Force Base, Italy) and Accident Investigation course (Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, US) between 1996 and 1997.

Special honours:

Academic award in Undergraduate Pilot Training, Reese Air Force Base, Texas. Honours student at Test Pilot School, Patuxent River, Maryland. Honours student at United States Flight Safety School, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. Italian Air Force Long Service Medal (1997).


Following graduation from Undergraduate Pilot Training in 1990, Roberto Vittori flew Tornado GR1 aircraft with the 155th Squadron, 50th Wing, Piacenza, Italy from 1991 to 1994. During that time he qualified for day and night air-to-air refuelling and as a formation leader.

In 1995 he completed the U.S. Navy's Test Pilot School training. He then served at the Italian Test Centre until 1998 as project pilot for the development of a new European aircraft, the EuroFighter EF2000. From 1996 to 1998 he was the national representative in the Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) research and development programme.

In 1997 he attended the U.S. Air Force Flight Safety School and from 1997 to 1998 he was Wing Flight Safety Officer at the Italian Test Centre. He also instructed aerodynamics for the Italian Air Force's Accident Investigation Course.

Roberto Vittori holds the rank of major in the Italian Air Force. He has logged nearly 2000 hours in over 40 different aircraft, including the F-104 Starfighter, the Tornado GR1, the F-18 Hornet, the Aermacchi AMX, the Mirage 2000, the Aeritalia G-222 transporter and the P-180 Avanti.

In July 1998 he was selected to be an astronaut by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), in cooperation with ESA, and one month later, he was appointed to the European Astronaut Corps, based at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany.

In August 1998 he was relocated to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and entered the 1998 astronaut class for participation in a training programme that qualifies astronauts for Space Shuttle and International Space Station assignments.

Current Assignment:

Roberto Vittori is currently undergoing mission specialist training at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. He also has technical duties in the Space Shuttle Operations Systems Branch.


For further information:

Media Relations Office

Tel: +33(0)1 5369 7155