Frank De Winne

Astronaut and Cosmonaut



Frank De Winne is an astro­naut of the European Space Agency (ESA). He is the sec­ond Belgian astro­naut and the first European astro­naut to com­mand the ISS

Frank De Winne was born on April 25, 1961 in Ghent, Belgium. He obtained his diplo­mas in Telecommunications and Civil Engineer-Polytechnician at the Royal Military Academy in Brussels. Afterwards, Frank De Winne fol­lowed a fly­ing course and obtained his test pilot’s license. De Winne has more than 2300 hours of fly­ing expe­ri­ence in var­i­ous types of air­crafts, includ­ing Mirage, F‑16, Tornado and Jaguar. 

On 12 February 1997 De Winne encoun­tered the engine prob­lems while fly­ing in an F‑16 Fighting Falcon over dense­ly pop­u­lat­ed area near Leeuwarden. After the onboard com­put­er failed, De Winne was faced with the choice of crash­ing in the IJsselmeer or of eject­ing over dense­ly pop­u­lat­ed area. However, De Winne was able to land his crip­pled plane at Leeuwarden air base, a feat which earned him the Joe Bill Dryden Semper Viper Award, the first non-American ever to get this award. 

From 30 October to 10 November 2002, Frank De Winne flew the Odissea mis­sion, a sup­port flight to the International Space Station. He served as a flight engi­neer on the updat­ed Soyuz TMA space­craft on launch, and on a Soyuz TM for reen­try. De Winne’s prime task of the 11-day mis­sion was to replace the Soyuz TM-34 vehi­cle attached to the Space Station with the new Soyuz TMA1. During his nine days spent on the Space Station, Frank De Winne ran 23 exper­i­ments in life and phys­i­cal sci­ences and edu­ca­tion, includ­ing exper­i­ments in Europe’s Microgravity Science Glovebox. From 27 May to 1 December 2009 he was sent on the OasISS mis­sion, a long-dura­tion flight on the International Space Station. As part of Expedition 21 Frank De Winne became the first European com­man­der of the orbital out­post. He was also Soyuz TMA-15 and Expedition 20 flight engi­neer. One of De Winne’s key tasks dur­ing the mis­sion was to oper­ate the Station’s robot­ic arm to dock Japan’s first HTV car­go vehi­cle. After his mis­sion, Frank De Winne chaired the tech­ni­cal com­mit­tee of the sec­ond EU – ESA Space Exploration Conference in Brussels in 2010.

Viscount De Winne became Head of ESA’s European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany on 1 August 2012. Since 2017, he has been in charge of International Space Station oper­a­tions at ESA, and in 2020 became ESA’s ISS Programme Manager.