Back to Index
Science & Exploration

N° 38–1998: New astronaut joins European Space Agency's corps

19 October 1998

The Director General of ESA, Antonio Rodota, together with the Belgian Minister for Science Policy, Yvan Ylieff, announced Europe's newest astronaut, Frank De Winne, today at the opening of the Association of Space Explorers congress, a meeting of about 100 astronauts being held this week in Brussels, Belgium.

Frank De Winne (37), a senior test pilot in the Belgian Air Force, joins the other 13 astronauts that make up the European corps. He will begin training around mid-1999 to qualify for future missions onboard the International Space Station.

De Winne, a major with 12 years of flying experience and a special interest in man-machine interfaces, has logged 2300 hours of flying time on various types of high-performance aircraft. He is currently the squadron commander of the 349th Fighter Squadron stationed at the Kleine Brogel Airbase in Belgium.

De Winne is the second Belgian astronaut. The first one, Dirk Frimout, flew on the Space Shuttle's Atlas-1 (STS-45) mission in 1992.

With this nomination, ESA has completed the first phase of its creation of a single European astronaut corps. Since June, five astronauts from existing national astronaut programmes have been integrated into the ESA programme and several new astronauts have been recruited. Other existing national astronauts will join the corps in 1999. The objective is to have a total of 16 astronauts by mid-2000 in order to be able to meet the demand for European astronauts foreseen in the coming years as the International Space Station is being built and research onboard gets underway.

Presently, the European corps consists of 13 astronauts: Jean-François Clervoy, Leopold Eyharts, Jean-Pierre Haigneré (France); Thomas Reiter, Hans Schlegel, Gerhard Thiele (Germany); Umberto Guidoni, Paolo Nespoli, Roberto Vittori (Italy); Andr( Kuipers (The Netherlands); Pedro Duque (Spain); Christer Fuglesang (Sweden); and Claude Nicollier (Switzerland). Their home base is ESA's European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany.

For further information, see the following Web pages: * European Astronaut Centre: -
International Space Station: - ESA in general:

For further information, please contact : ESA Public Relations Division Tel: +33(0) Fax:+33(0)



BIRTHPLACE AND DATE: Ghent, Belgium, 25 April 1961.

EDUCATION: 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. In 1991, he completed the Staff Course at the Defence College, in Brussels with the highest distinction and in 1992 he graduated from the Empire Test Pilots School (ETPS) in Boscombe Down, England. Awarded the McKenna Trophy.

FAMILY: Married, three children.

RECREATIONAL INTERESTS: Football, small PC applications, gastronomy.

ORGANISATIONS: Chairman of the Belgian Armed Forces Flying Personnel Association.

EXPERIENCE: 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, US, and a Self Protection Programme for the C130 aircraft. During that period, he also flew as a reception pilot on different aircraft types in Gosselies.

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

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.

SPECIAL HONOURS : First non-American pilot to receive the Joe Bill Dryden Semper Viper Award, in 1997, for demonstrating exceptional skills during a flight.

CURRENT SITUATION: Since August 1998, Frank De Winne has been the Squadron Commander of the 349th Fighter Squadron at Kleine Brogel Airbase, Belgium.