Claude Nicollier – Keynote Speaker

First Swiss Astronaut

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Specialist Subjects

  • Space Mission Design
  • Solar Powered Technology.


  • English
  • French
  • German


Claude Nicollier is the first astronaut from Switzerland, and has flown on four Space Shuttle missions as an ESA astronaut (European Space Agency).

He graduated from the University of Lausanne in 1970 with a BSC in physics and a MSC in astrophysics from the University of Geneva in 1975. He also graduated as a Swiss Air Force pilot in 1966, an airline pilot in 1974, and a test pilot in 1988 at the Empire Test Pilot’s School, Boscombe Down, United Kingdom.

He was a member of the first group of ESA astronauts selected in 1978. He then joined Group 9 of NASA astronauts in 1980 for Space Shuttle training at the Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, where he was stationed until September 2005. His technical assignments in Houston included Space Shuttle flight software verification in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory, development of Tethered Satellite System retrieval techniques, the Remote Manipulator System and International Space Station robotics support. From 1996 to 1998, he was head of the astronaut office robotics branch. From 2000 on, he was a member of the Astronaut Office EVA (Extravehicular Activity) Branch, while maintaining a position as Lead European Space Agency astronaut in Houston.

During his assignment in Houston, he also maintained an active duty status within the Swiss Air Force with a rank as Captain, flying Hawker Hunter and Northrop F-5E “Tiger” fighter jets until end of 2004. He has logged more than 6,500 flight hours, 4,000 of which were in jet aircrafts.

Claude Nicollier has been a crew member on four Space Shuttle flights. STS-46 (1992) which involved EURECA deployment and the first test of a Tethered Satellite System; STS-61 (1993), which was the first servicing mission of the Hubble Space Telescope; STS-75 (1996) which was the second flight of TSS and involved USMP-3 microgravity investigations; and STS-103 (1999) which was the third servicing mission of the Hubble Space Telescope. He has logged more than 1,000 hours in space, including a spacewalk of more than 8 hours duration to install new equipment on the Hubble Space Telescope during STS-103. This was the first spacewalk out of the Space Shuttle for an ESA astronaut.

He retired from the European Space Agency in 2007, and is currently professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne where he teaches a course on “Space Mission Design and Operations”, and provides assistance to students on various space related projects. He was also involved in the “Solar Impulse” solar powered aircraft program as Head of Flight Test and Head of the Safety Review Board. This project was launched by Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg and has the objective to fly around the world in several steps on solar power only, with one pilot on board. The round-the-world flight was performed in 2015 and 2016.

Claude Nicollier is a recipient of Honorary Doctorates from École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, and the Universities of Geneva and Basel.

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