About the mission

Frank De Winne is set to stay on the International Space Station for six months

On 27 May 2009, ESA astronaut Frank De Winne launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome on the Soyuz TMA-15 spacecraft. Two days later, on 29 May 2009, the Soyuz TMA-15 docked with the International Space Station starting De Winne's six-month OasISS mission.

De Winne is a member of the first six-person ISS Expedition crew. Later in his mission he will also be the first European to become the ISS Commander.

For De Winne, who is a member of the European Astronaut Corps, this is his second mission to the Station on behalf of ESA, following on from the 11-day Odissea mission in 2002.

The mission marks many important milestones for ESA, European astronauts, European science and European control centres, as well as holding a great deal of significance for ESA in cooperation with its international partners.

Not only are these milestones of great importance in fulfilling the goals of the mission, they also hold great significance by building on current knowledge and experience for future exploration missions.

The focal points of the mission are as follows:

Soyuz TMA-15 launch and crew

De Winne launched into orbit with the Soyuz TMA-15 spacecraft on flight 19S to the ISS, together with Canadian Space Agency astronaut Robert Thirsk and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko.

Expedition 20
Expedition 20 crew

First six-member ISS crew

The arrival of De Winne and the other two members of the Soyuz TMA-15 crew at the ISS marked the first ever six-member ISS Expedition Crew, as they joined the three Expedition crewmembers that were already on the Station: Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, NASA astronaut Michael Barratt and JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata.

Padalka and Barratt arrived at the ISS as Expedition 19 crewmembers on Soyuz TMA-14 on 28 March 2009. Wakata arrived at the ISS on Shuttle flight STS-119 on 17 March 2009. Wakata was replaced on the ISS crew by NASA astronaut Timothy Kopra who arrived with Space Shuttle Endeavour on flight STS-127 in July. Wakata returned to Earth with STS-127.

Until recently the ISS was only able to support a permanent crew of three. However with the Station nearing completion and the delivery of new Environmental Control and Life Support Systems, together with support from logistics spacecraft, a six-member crew has now been made possible. These logistics spacecraft include the European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), the Russian Progress spacecraft, the Japanese HII Transfer Vehicle (due for its first launch during the OasISS Mission) and the Space Shuttle.

The increase to a six-person crew boosts the time available for De Winne and the rest of the crew to carry out important scientific and technological research in addition to their standard operational tasks. This is a visible sign of the increasing role that Europe is playing through ESA in human spaceflight and will provide a basis for future human exploration missions.

ESA astronaut Frank De Winne
In October, Frank De Winne becomes ISS Commander

First European ISS Commander

After arriving at the ISS, De Winne from Belgium initially assumes the tasks of an ISS Flight Engineer as a member of the ISS Expedition 20 crew. De Winne is the third ESA astronaut to be a member of an ISS Expedition crew after Thomas Reiter (Astrolab Mission, 4 July–22 December 2006) and Léopold Eyharts (Columbus Mission, 7 February–27 March 2008).

In October, De Winne will become commander of the ISS Expedition 21 Crew, taking over the responsibilities of commander from Russian cosmonaut and Expedition 20 commander Gennady Padalka.

In his function as ISS Commander, De Winne will be responsible, among other things, for conducting operations on the ISS, directing the activities of the ISS crewmembers as a single, integrated team, ensuring the safety of the crew and the protection of the ISS elements, equipment, and payloads. He is set to return to Earth in November 2009.

Chamitoff works inside the Columbus laboratory
Experiments using the facilities inside the European Columbus laboratory

Undertake an extensive European experiment programme

During the OasISS mission, the European programme of scientific experiments and technology demonstrations make use of the internal and external scientific facilities of the ISS and especially of the European Columbus laboratory, which was attached to the ISS in February 2008. Many of these experiments are undertaken by De Winne, with additional experiments undertaken by members of the ISS Expedition crew and visiting crewmembers.

These scientific experiments and technology demonstrations come predominantly from scientific institutions across Europe and have been specifically tailored to a long-duration mission on the ISS. This research programme covers different research areas, including human physiology, biology, radiation dosimetry, exobiology, fluid physics and materials sciences. These include experiments that could hold benefits in Earth-based applications, as well as experiments that are relevant for future exploration missions.

Undertake an important programme of educational and promotional activities

ESA views education as a valuable aspect in its human spaceflight missions, helping to inspire the youth of today. De Winne is the prime focus of ESA’s education activities during the mission. His activities include a live lesson from the ISS.

As Frank is also a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF Belgium, this provides a great opportunity amongst other education activities during the mission for cooperation between ESA and UNICEF Belgium. This cooperation is based on the common ground of water, and in support of UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene campaign (WASH). Water is not only one of the most important basic elements of life as we know it and therefore the most important thread to follow when searching for life in the Universe, but it is also a very important resource for astronauts and spacecraft in orbit.

JAXA's HTV is captured by the Station's robotic arm
JAXA's HTV is captured by the Station's robotic arm

First docking of the Japanese HTV - Robotic Arm Operations

De Winne will be one of the two operators of the Station’s robotic arm when it is used for docking the first Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-1), the Japanese logistics spacecraft to the ISS, in September 2009. He will also be the main operator of the Japanese robotic arm, which will be used to transfer scientific payloads to the Japanese external payload facility outside of the Japanese Kibo Laboratory.

Attachment of Mini Research Module 2

During the OasISS mission the Russian Mini Research Module 2 will be transported and attached to the ISS. It will be put into orbit by a Soyuz-U launcher, attached to a modified Progress spacecraft. Unlike the name suggests the Mini Research Module 2 is principally a docking compartment and airlock similar to the Russian Pirs Docking Compartment, which is currently attached to the Station’s Russian Zvezda Service Module.

The new docking compartment will be attached to the docking port on Zvezda on the opposite side of where Pirs is attached. This new module will obviously be advantageous in light of increased Russian Soyuz/Progress launches due to an increase to a six-member crew.

Columbus Control Centre
ESA’s Columbus Control Centre near Munich, Germany

Increased experience for European Control Centres in light of future exploration missions beyond the ISS

In terms of mission control, ESA’s Columbus Control Centre located near Munich, Germany, which is operated by flight control teams from the German Space Operations Centre (DLR/GSOC) under the management of ESA mission directors, continues to increase Europe’s experience in long–duration human spaceflight missions to the ISS.

The control centre is the hub of European activity during this mission, monitoring and coordinating the activities of De Winne, coordinating with the Mission Control Centres in Houston and Moscow, and coordinating with the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, and various User Support and Operations Centres throughout Europe. The OasISS mission provides Europe with invaluable experience of long-duration human spaceflight operations, which is invaluable for planning future human exploration missions beyond low-Earth orbit.

Additional information

  • Agreements
    De Winne’s flight is covered under the ISS agreement with its international programme partners by which ESA are entitled to an 8.3% share in the Station resources (crew time, power etc.) following the attachment of the Columbus laboratory to the ISS. This allows ESA to send one European astronaut to the ISS for a six-month mission every two years.

    A majority of the European experiment programme is funded from the European programme for Life and Physical Sciences in Space (ELIPS).

  • Visiting ESA astronaut
    During the OasISS mission De Winne will be joined on the ISS by Swedish ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang, who will fly as a mission specialist on the STS-128 ISS assembly mission currently scheduled for launch in August 2009. As part of the mission, Fuglesang will participate in two spacewalks for ISS assembly as he also did in 2006 as a Mission Specialist on the Celsius/STS-116 mission.

  • Backup ESA astronaut
    ESA astronaut André Kuipers from the Netherlands is the backup ESA astronaut for the OasISS mission and followed the same training programme as Frank De Winne. After the Soyuz launch on 27 May, Kuipers took up duty as Eurocom based at the Columbus Control Centre and EAC. Kuipers previously flew to the ISS on the Delta mission in April 2004 on the Russian Soyuz TMA-4 spacecraft and spent 12 days in space during the mission.

  • Return flight
    Frank De Winne is scheduled to return to Earth with Roman Romanenko and Robert Thirsk with the Soyuz TMA-15 spacecraft on 1 December 2009.

Last update: 29 September 2009

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