Photo courtesy of NASA / James Blair
A British Army helicopter pilot and a fellow rotary-wing aviator from the U.S. are scheduled to fly to the International Space Station next week for a nearly six-month tour of duty in low-Earth orbit.
European Space Agency crewmember Tim Peake will make his first spaceflight. NASA astronaut Tim Kopra served on the space station for two months in 2009.
They are to be launched to the space station Dec. 15 with their crew commander, cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (A former Russian Air Force fighter pilot, Malenchenko is a seasoned space veteran, with four flights and more than 514 days in orbit under his belt.)
As a British Army Air Corps aviator, Peake served in Germany, the former republic of Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland, Kenya and Canada, and was an exchange officer with the U.S. Army from 1999 to 2002. After his tour in the U.S., Peake completed test-pilot training and served with Rotary Wing Test Squadron, Boscombe Down, between 2006 and 2009. He retired from the British Army as a major in 2009 and went to work for AgustaWestland as a senior helicopter test pilot.
Kopra in the late 1980s served as an aeroscout platoon leader, troop executive officer and squadron adjutant in the 101st Airborne Division’s air cavalry squadron. He later served in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and completed a tour in Germany as an attack helicopter company commander and an operations officer. Also a test pilot, he was assigned to the U.S. Army Aviation Technical Test Center (where he served as the developmental test director for the Comanche program). He retired from the Army as a colonel in November 2010.