Assembly of the International Space Station is in full swing and so is the
training of future crews. 120 men and women from Europe, the United States,
Russia, Canada, Japan and Brazil have to be prepared for their work in space
with the help of a sophisticated training programme. Astrium, the largest
space company in Europe, is closely involved in astronaut training by
seconding instructors and providing technical systems to familiarise future
crewmembers with the complex facilities to be operated in space.
Not everybody can become an astronaut. Physical and mental requirements are
extremely high and the selection procedure is very severe. As early as 1992,
the European Space Agency ESA started to recruit crewmembers for the space
station. 22,636 applications were submitted to ESA; after a first
pre-selection, about one fourth of these candidates seemed to be basically
qualified. Following personal interviews and qualifying examinations, six
astronaut candidates were selected. Europe will second 16 astronauts to the
space station in the years to come. Most of these future astronauts do not
have any space experience”.

New requirements due to long-term missions

In their function as crewmembers of the space station, astronauts have to be
“all-rounders”. They have to be familiar with the operation of transport
vehicles, they need to know how to use robotic arms during the assembly
phase, how to operate communication, navigation and station control systems,
how to monitor experiments and how to quickly find appropriate solutions
whenever a problem arises. As far as qualification is concerned, today’s
projects in manned spaceflight differ from the projects carried out in the
past: whereas space shuttle missions were comparatively brief and required
knowledge in how to handle a defined number of experiments, missions to the
International Space Station last longer and demand a broad and varied
spectrum of skills. Europe has, of course, some experience in training
astronauts: German and European mission experts were onboard the space
vehicles during the Spacelab, D1, D2 and Euromir missions. However, the
number was limited and the tasks clearly defined. Under the direction of
ESA, Europe has now had to develop a training programme for the space
station which meet these changed requirements.

Astronaut training supported by the industry

Space companies such as Astrium were also involved in astronaut training in
the past. Whenever the operation of supplied systems such as experiment
equipment was concerned, development engineers from the companies involved
provided future operators with all necessary information on proper handling
of the systems. Due to the higher requirements in connection with the space
station, Astrium selected four of its systems experts to undergo astronaut
instructor training. Tasks comprise among others the preparation of training
aids, the development of concepts for interactive learning systems and
direct instruction of future astronauts. As far as content is concerned,
instruction concentrates on the space station components supplied by Astrium
with particular focus on the European laboratory Columbus, the automated
transfer vehicle ATV and specific payloads (e.g. ovens for experiments from
the materials science sector, medical and biological research facilities).
In addition to the secondment of own instructors, Astrium supports astronaut
training on specific scientific and industrial payloads to be accommodated
onboard the space station.

Original copies of the systems enhance training

Training of the astronauts covers a period of 3.5 years and starts with
basic instruction on the station’s functions and features. Basic training
also comprises flight and diving training (so-called parabolic flights to
prepare astronauts for microgravity as well as underwater activities while
wearing a spacesuit to familiarise astronauts with the restricted freedom of
movement to be faced when working outside the space station) to be carried
out in the training centres of the US Space Agency NASA. After a period of
twelve months, basic training is followed by training on systems and payload
operation. Emergency procedures are also included in the advance section of
the training programme. On completion of the year-long advanced training,
the astronauts will be prepared for their onboard tasks with particular
focus on experiment control. In addition to ground training and computer
simulation, the training concept also comprises practical training in the
operation of systems and equipment to be used aboard the space station. For
this purpose, the Cologne-based European Astronaut Centre EAC provides
functional models of all the facilities required, including a full-scale
mock-up of the Columbus laboratory module. At the EAC, which was established
in 1990 as an ESA institution affiliated to Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und
Raumfahrt DLR, Astrium instructors do not only teach future astronauts in
the operation of individual systems but also in the simultaneous handling of
several facilities thus preparing them for conditions in space. As in the
case of any training, this training also concludes with extensive
examination of the relevant skills and knowledge gained by the future

Working life in space will be similar to that of many people on Earth:
90-day missions on the average, five working days a week, eight hours of
work a day plus two hours for fitness and a 30-minute crew briefing, two
free days a week during which the station will be cleared up.
Astrium is a joint company of EADS European Aeronautic Defence and Space
Company and BAE Systems.

Paris/Le Bourget, June 2001

Your contact: Astrium Space Infrastructure

Mrs. Kirsten Leung

Phone: tel: +49-421-539-5326

fax: +49-421-539-4534