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 TMA‑1. 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.