A commercial cargo spacecraft destined for the International Space Station will fly under the name of a NASA astronaut who was the first Indian-born woman to enter space.
Northrop Grumman has declared that its next Cygnus capsule will be named the “S.S. Kalpana Chawla”, in memory of the mission specialist who died with her six crew mates on board the space shuttle Columbia in 2003.
The S.S. Kalpana Chawla is planned to launched 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 at 10:26 PM EDT. The spacecraft will show up at and be docked to the space station two days later.
“It is the company’s tradition to name each Cygnus after an individual who has played a pivotal role in human spaceflight,” Northrop Grumman said in a statement released on Tuesday (September 8).
“Chawla was selected in honor of her prominent place in history as the first woman of Indian descent to go to space.”
Born in Karnal, Haryana, Chawla moved to the United States to earn her master’s and doctorate degrees in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas in 1984 and University of Colorado in 1988, respectively. She at that point started her profession at NASA, leading research in fluid dynamics at the Ames Research Center in California.
In the wake of turning into a naturalized United States citizen, Chawla applied for and turned into a NASA astronaut as a member of “The Flying Escargot,” NASA’s 15th class of trainees.
In 1997, she launched on STS-87, a 15-day space shuttle mission that was committed to the science flying as a feature of the 4th United States Microgravity Payload (USMP-4).
Chawla’s subsequent spaceflight, STS-107, came to a tragic end on February 1, 2003, after 16 days of leading science on board the space shuttle Columbia.
A little piece of foam that struck the shuttle’s left wing during launch created a hole that went undetected during the mission. Upon Columbia’s return to Earth, hot plasma entered the wing, destroying it, and the subsequent loss of control prompted the vehicle crumbling and the death of the crew.
“While Chawla made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the space program, her legacy lives on through her fellow astronauts and those she has inspired to follow in her footsteps,” Northrop Grumman stated.
“Her final research conducted on board Columbia helped us understand astronaut health and safety during spaceflight. Northrop Grumman is proud to celebrate the life of Kalpana Chawla and her dream of flying through the air and in space.”