REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – One U.S. Army astronaut and doctor makes a house call on the International Space Station.
Army Astronaut Lt. Col. (Dr.) Frank Rubio successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, aboard a Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft Sept. 21, for a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station. Following a three-hour journey, the crew made two orbits around the Earth before docking the Soyuz to the space station to begin their mission on the orbital laboratory.
Rubio, an active-duty Army physician and NASA astronaut, launched as a flight engineer and member of NASA Expedition 68 with Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin. Rubio will participate in numerous scientific and technical experiments, space station maintenance, extra vehicular activities/space walks, environmental and earth observation tasks, and public engagement events.
This will be the first space flight for Rubio and Petelin, and Prokopyev’s second flight into space.
Rubio was one of 10 selected out of 18,300 applicants by NASA for the 2017 Astronaut Candidate class. Prior to selection he served as the battalion surgeon, 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Carson, Colorado.
Prior to receiving his medical degree through the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Rubio served as a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot accumulating more the 1,100 hours including 600 hours of combat and imminent danger time in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in international relations.
The Army’s involvement in the nation’s space program dates back to the launch of United States’ first satellite, Explorer 1 in 1958. The first U.S. astronaut was launched on an Army rocket. Through the years, 19 Army astronauts have been selected by NASA, with Rubio being the 18th to fly into space.
“Lt. Col. Rubio represents a ‘human element’ to Army space capabilities, like so many of our SMDC Soldiers stationed around the world,” said Lt. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, commanding general of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command. “He is a great representative of the Army’s role in space. To have that human presence in Earth orbit is only a small part of Army space capabilities. Our Army astronaut detachment, though small in number, has an out-sized strategic impact as they represent Soldiers and the Army on the ultimate high ground, either around the globe or orbiting above it.”
USASMDC provides support to NASA with the Army astronaut detachment assigned to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. SMDC’s astronauts help the Army define its requirements for the space program and enhance the Army’s use of space capabilities. These Soldiers are Army ambassadors to NASA and the public while serving as NASA flight crew members providing engineering expertise for human interface with space systems.
The Army astronaut detachment plays a key role in manned and unmanned operational space systems for national space programs. Their role ensures space support for Army strategic, operational and tactical operations worldwide, develops space awareness throughout the Army, helps to determine requirements for Army space programs and provides operational advocacy for Army space initiatives.
“Army astronauts are more than astronauts,” Karbler said. “They represent the Army, serving as ambassadors to the public. NASA has long recognized the skills and leadership qualities of Army astronauts. I know Lt. Col. Rubio will make us proud and we look forward to all he will accomplish.”