Engineering student with a passion for space
Dirk Frimout was born on 21 March 1941 in Poperinge. After obtaining his diploma of secondary education at the Royal Atheneum of Ghent, he started his studies at the University of Ghent. In 1963 he obtained his degree in Electronics Engineering.
From a very young age onwards, Dirk Frimout has been passionately fond of space research and has dedicated his entire professional life to space science.
Career at the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB)
Dirk Frimout started his scientific career at the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA) (1965-1978). There he obtained his doctorate in applied physics and started a post-doctoral stay at the University of Colorado, in the laboratory for atmospheric and space physics. The future astronaut also obtained the degree of Civil Engineer in Electromechanics and became a Doctor of Applied Sciences in 1978.
At BIRA-IASB, he was in charge of the Instrumentation Department.
- He led the different experiments on board of stratospheric balloons and probe rockets.
- He worked on the concept of the grille spectrometer that will fly in the Spacelab module during the Atlas1 mission.
In 1977, he put himself up for astronaut during the European Space Agency’s (ESA) first selection of astronauts.
Career at ESA and NASA
From 1978 to 1984 Dirk Frimout worked at the European Space Agency (ESA). In 1985 he applied again and was selected by NASA. His flight was to take place in 1986, but the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle threw a spanner in the works. The plans changed and his flight did not take place until 1992.
Dirk Frimout flew as a payload specialist in 1992 aboard the space shuttle STS-45 and became the first Belgian astronaut. During the 8-day "Atlas-1" space mission, 12 experiments were carried out, of which 4 were Belgian, with the main goal of studying the Earth's atmosphere and the relationship between the Sun and the Earth.
Bringing space closer to young people
Thanks to his mission, Dirk Firmout is now in the history books as the first Belgian in space! Shortly after his return, in 1993, he was awarded the rank of Grand Officer in the Leopold Order by King Baudouin, who also raised him to the hereditary nobility, with the title of Viscount.
Since his return to Earth, Dirk Frimout has dedicated himself unceasingly to space travel and to motivating young people for science and technology.