Northrop Grumman names its spacecraft after late astronaut Kalpana Chawla

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Kalpana Chawla was the first Indian American astronaut.(Photo: NASA/IANS)

Virginia based aerospace and defense technology company, Northrop Grumman, recently announced it named its spacecraft after Kalpana Chawla, the first woman of Indian-origin to travel to space.

The NG-14 Cygnus, to be used in the Cargo Delivery Mission to the International Space Station will be named ‘S.S. Kalpana Chawla’ after the late astronaut.

“It is the company’s tradition to name each Cygnus after an individual who has played a pivotal role in human spaceflight. Chawla was selected in honor of her prominent place in history as the first woman of Indian descent to go to space,” stated Northrop Grumman in a statement.

According to Northrop Grumman, for the NG-14 mission, the Cygnus spacecraft will deliver approximately 3,629 kg (8,000lb.) of cargo to the space station.

The S.S. Kalpana Chawla is tentatively scheduled to launch on the NG-14 mission atop a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on September 29. The spacecraft will arrive at and be attached to the space station 24 hours before liftoff.

The spacecraft is not the first time that Chawla has been honored for her contribution to space. In 2003, shortly after Chawla’s death, the MetSat-1 satellite of ISRO was renamed to Kalpana-1 by the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

In 2004, NASA named its Altix supercomputer ‘KC’ after Chawla. It was the world’s first single – system image SSI Linus supercomputer.

About Kalpana Chawla

Born in Karnal, Haryana, on March 17, 1962, Kalpana Chawla began her career at NASA in 1988 as a powered-lift computational fluid dynamics researcher at the Ames Research Center in California. In 1993, Chawla joined Overset Methods Inc. as vice president and a researcher in aerodynamics.

After becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in April 1991, Chawla applied for the NASA astronauts corps. She was selected in December 1994, and reported to the Johnson Space Center in Houston in 1995 as an astronaut candidate in Group 15, notes Northrop Grumman in the bio provided along with the announcement about Chawla.

In November 1996, Chawla was assigned as a mission specialist on STS-87 aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, becoming the first woman of Indian descent to fly in space. Chawla’s second spaceflight experience came in 2001 when she was selected for the crew of STS-107.

Chawla, who devoted her entire life to understanding flight dynamics, lost her life during the STS-107 mission when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentering the Earth’s atmosphere.

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