Spacecraft named after Kalpana Chawla - first woman of Indian origin to go to space

Northop Grumman, an American Company,  has decided to name its next Cygnus capsule “S.S. Kalpana Chawla” to acknowledge her key contributions to the human spaceflight. She was the first India-born woman to enter space.

Sep 11, 2020 17:05 IST
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Northop Grumman, an American global aerospace and defence technology company has announced that its next Cygnus capsule will be named “S.S. Kalpana Chawla”, in memory of the mission specialist who died in 2003 with her six crewmates aboard the space shuttle Columbia.

As per Northop Grumman, the decision to name an American Commercial cargo Spacecraft bound for the International Space Station after Kalpana Chawla has been taken to acknowledge her key contributions to the human spaceflight. She was the first India-born woman to enter space.

The American company also shared this news on its website and mentioned that Northop Grumman is proud to name the NG-14 Cygnus Spacecraft after former astronaut Kalpana Chawla. It added that it is a company’s tradition to name each Cygnus after an individual who has played a pivotal role in the human spaceflight.

Naming of US Spacecraft “S.S. Kalpana Chawla”:

While informing about its decision, Northop Grumman further added that Kalpana Chawla was selected in honour of her prominent place in history as the first woman of Indian descent to go to space.

It also mentioned that while Kalpana Chawla had made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the space programme, her legacy is still there through her fellow astronauts and those she has inspired to follow in her footsteps.

Her final research which was conducted onboard Columbia helped us understand astronaut health and safety during the spaceflight.

When is “S.S. Kalpana Chawla” scheduled for launch?

The “S.S. Kalpana Chawla” capsule is all set to launch on the NG-14 mission atop a Northop Grumman Antares rocket from MARS- Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Flight Facility of NASA in Virginia on September 29, 2020.

The Cygnus spacecraft for the NG-14 mission will deliver approximately 3,629 kg of cargo to the space station. The spacecraft will be arriving at and will be attached to the space station two days later.

Kalpana Chawla at NASA

Kalpana Chawla began her career in NASA in 1988 as a powered-lift computational fluid dynamics researcher at the Ames Research Centre, California. Her work had concentrated on the simulation of the complex air flows encountered by the aircraft flying in ‘ground effect’.

Kalpana Chawla joined Overset Methods Inc. in 1993 as a Vice-President and a researcher in aerodynamics.

After becoming a naturalized US citizen in April 1991, she applied for the NASA astronauts corps. In December 1994, she was selected and reported to the Johnson Space Centre in Houston in 1995 as an astronaut candidate in Group 15.

Kalpana Chawla was assigned as a mission specialist in November 1996 as STS-87 aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, becoming the first woman of Indian descent to fly into space.

Her second spaceflight experience came in 2001 when she was selected for the crew of STS-107. The flight was dedicated to research and science, with approx. 80 experiments completed.


About Kalpana Chawla:

Kalpana Chawla was born on March 17, 1962, in Karnal, Haryana. She did a Bachelor of Science in aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College in 1982.

She moved to the United States to pursue her graduate education and in 1984 she received a Master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas. She also did her Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University in Colorado, in 1988.

Kalpana Chawla also held commercial pilot’s licenses for the single and multi-engine aeroplanes, gliders, and seaplanes. She was also a certified flight instructor.

She lost her life during the STS-107 mission in 2003 when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentering the Earth’s atmosphere.

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