OasISS mission heading to ISS with ESA astronaut Frank De Winne
ESA astronaut Frank De Winne is heading to the International Space Station at the start of his six-month OasISS mission. Together with Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Robert Thirsk, De Winne launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, at 12:34 CEST (10:34 UT) today.
Their Soyuz TMA-15 spacecraft is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) at 14:36 CEST (12:36 UT) on Friday 29 May. The arrival of De Winne, Romanenko and Thirsk at the ISS will mark the first ever six-member ISS crew, as they join the three Expedition crewmembers already in residence on the Station: Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, NASA astronaut Michael Barratt and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata.
For the first four months of his OasISS mission, De Winne will be a Flight Engineer as a member of the Expedition 20 crew, reporting to Expedition 20 Commander Gennady Padalka. With a rotation of three of the six crewmembers due in October, De Winne will take over as Commander of the Expedition 21 crew until his return to Earth in November. He is the first European to take on this role.
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, and for ensuring the safety of the crew and the protection of the ISS elements, equipment and payloads.
This is De Winne's second spaceflight after taking part in the Odissea mission to the ISS from 30 October to 10 November 2002. He will be joined on the ISS by Swedish ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang, who will fly as mission specialist on the 11-day STS-128 mission scheduled for August 2009.