News story

UK celebrates successful launch of astronaut Tim Peake

Tim Peake has successfully launched into space, becoming the first Brit to undertake a long duration mission on the ISS.

Young People celebrating Tim's launch at the Science Museum.

The launch was celebrated across the UK as millions of people watched the live feed and over 15,000 people gathered at launch events across the country to wave Tim on his way.

Tim’s launch - the first of a British astronaut in over 20 years – took place this morning at 11:03:10 GMT from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. As is now standard with a Soyuz launch, Tim and his crewmates, Tim Kopra and Yuri Malenchenko reached their destination after just four orbits around our planet. Their spacecraft docked at 17:33 GMT and the hatch to their new home in space was opened at 19:58 GMT. They were welcomed aboard by Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Korniyenko and Sergey Volkov, and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly.

Jo Johnson good luck message to Tim

Mission Principia

Tim’s six month mission, named Principia after Newton’s world-changing text on physics, Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, will see him carrying out unique science and inspiring young minds across the UK. As well as being a test subject for health research, Tim will be using the unique environment of space to run experiments for researchers from all over our planet, including trying to grow blood vessels and protein crystals, simulating atomic structures, charting areas in the brain as they adapt to stressful situations and using a furnace to melt and cool metal alloys as they float in mid-air. He will also be trying out new technologies for future human exploration missions and may perform a spacewalk (EVA).

With the UK now investing in the ISS and microgravity research, a variety of UK experiments are planned to take place during Tim’s mission, from testing and controlling a robot in Stevenage from the interior of the ISS to monitoring intracranial fluid shifts during prolonged spaceflight.

Education and outreach

Throughout the Principia mission the UK Space Agency will be running a £3 million programme of education and outreach activities, bringing the excitement of space to classrooms and venues across the country and encouraging interest in STEM subjects. From following Tim’s training regime to designing experiments that will run on the ISS, there are many ways UK students can join Tim on this adventure of a lifetime.

Most of the school activities running alongside Tim’s mission have some element of science or technology in them, but they cover a range of inspiring, curriculum-linked activities, covering everything from computer coding, growing plants and science/maths demonstrations to fitness, nutrition, art and design. More information is available at www.principia.org.uk

UK and the ISS

At the European Space Agency (ESA) Council of Ministers in November 2012, the UK committed funding for the first time to the European Life and Physical Sciences (ELIPS) programme and the ISS Utilisation programme: 16M€ was committed to ELIPS over a four year period, and 20M€ to the ISS as a ‘one-off’ contribution. This marked the first time the UK had been involved in human spaceflight, and the decision was based upon detailed business cases prepared by the UK Space Agency in consultation with scientific and industrial communities and other government bodies.

In the latest Ministerial (2014) the Agency again pledged money to the ISS. This money, £49.2 million, gives UK researchers continued access to the $100 billion ISS programme, allowing them to use the unique environment of space to carry out research and make important advances in areas such as materials science, additive manufacturing and medical/biological sciences.

The money will also be invested in the demonstration of a UK-built communications terminal for the European module of the ISS, lunar research activities – preparing for the likely next destination after the ISS, and developing key flight hardware.

Published 15 December 2015