UK spaceflight gets a boost with Peake selection for 2015 ISS mission

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Europe's contribution to the International Space Station crew rota has been agreed up to April 2016 with the selection of Timothy Peake to join expedition 46/47 for launch in November 2015, for six months in space.

Peake, a former Boeing/Westland AH1 Apache helicopter pilot and Major in the British Army, will be the only the third British-born person to fly in space. He follows chemist Helen Sharman, who led the UK into space with a 1991 trip to Russia's Mir space station, and UK-US dual citizen Michael Foale who, flying in NASA colours, accumulated more than 373 days in space between 1992 and 2004 with three Space Shuttle missions and stays aboard both Mir and the ISS. With cosmonaut Aleksandr Kaleri, Foale was joint commander of ISS expedition 8 in 2004.

Peake also follows IT entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth, a UK-South African dual-citizen who trained extensively and paid some $20 million to join, as a self-funded "spaceflight participant", a 2002 Russian Soyuz trip to the ISS, where he spent eight days.

Peake is one of six astronaut candidates selected by the European Space Agency in 2009 from thousands of applicants. The first of that group to fly will be Luca Parmitano, who is scheduled to launch on 28 May 2013. Parmitano will be followed by Alexander Gerst and Samantha Cristoforetti, both scheduled for launch in 2014. The two remaining class of 2009 astronauts, Andreas Mogensen and Thomas Pesquet, will be assigned before mid-2015 for flights at the latest in 2017.

Peake's training has included time in the USA and Russia. Having completed neutral buoyancy tank training in Houston, he is among an elite group of astronauts qualified to undertake a space walk.

Aboard the ISS, Peake's research focus will be the effects of microgravity.

His selection for the 2015 mission comes as the UK government ramps up its financial support for space-based research and for ESA, including its manned spaceflight programme.

Additional reporting by David Todd