British astronaut Tim Peake is about to blast off to the ISS in an historic day for the British space sector

Tim peake british astonautJoel Kowsky/NASA via Getty ImagesIn this handout from NASA, Expedition 46 Flight Engineer Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency), is seen during a press conference held at the Cosmonaut Hotel on December 14, 2015 in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Soyuz TMA-19M is scheduled to launch on December 15 carrying crew members Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Tim Kopra of NASA, and Flight Engineer Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency) to the International Space Station for a six-month mission, as part of Expedition 46-47.

It’s an historic day for the British space sector. This morning, just after 11AM, British astronaut Tim Peake will blast off for the International Space Station (ISS).

At 11.03AM GMT, his Soyuz rocket will launch¬†from Kazakhstan — finally docking with the ISS several hours later, at 17.23PM GMT.

Peake won’t be the first Briton ever to go into space. But he is the first Brit to be selected by the European Space Agency to become an astronaut.

In fact, Peake is — technically — British astronaut number four. There is also Helen Sharman, who became the first Briton in space in 1991 thanks to a deal between Russia and British businesses. Then there’s Michael Foale, who has dual British-American citizenship, who first flew with NASA in 1992 and became the first Briton to spacewalk in 1999. And lastly there is the British-South African Mark Shuttleworth. He went into space in 2002, as a citizen — the second “space tourist” paying their way into orbit.

Peake is being accompanied on his journey by two others — American Tim Kopra, and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko.

You can watch the European Space Agency’s coverage live here, starting at 10AM GMT:

The British astronaut is a former pilot who attended military college Sandhurst, leaving the army in 2009. He is 43 and has two sons. Peake is also a keen athlete, and as The Telegraph has reported, plans to run the London marathon while in space.

Peake’s Twitter handle is @astro_timpeake. He has been tweeting in the run-up to the launch, and seems likely he will tweet when on the ISS too — as Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield famously did.

Tributes to Peake are appearing across the internet ahead of his historic flight. Just take a look at the homepage of Google:

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