SS Kalpana Chawla: US spacecraft named after late astronaut

The launch of the rocket carrying the spacecraft is scheduled for 29 September.

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astronaut kalpana chawla

An American aerospace and defence technology company has named a spacecraft after late astronaut Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian-born woman to go to space.

The spacecraft that will be named “S.S. Kalpana Chawla” will carry cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).

“Northrop Grumman is proud to name the NG-14 Cygnus spacecraft after former astronaut Kalpana Chawla. Chawla was selected in honour of her prominent place in history as the first woman of Indian descent to go to space,” the company said.

The launch of the rocket carrying the Cygnus spacecraft “S.S. Kalpana Chawla” is scheduled for 29 September from Wallops Island, Virginia. The company said it is the company’s tradition to name each Cygnus after an individual who has played a pivotal role in human spaceflight.

Born in Karnal, Haryana on 1 July, 1961, Chawla first went into space in 1997 and become the second Indian person to fly in space after astronaut Rakesh Sharma.

She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College in 1982 and Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from University of Texas-Arlington in 1984. She was awarded PhD in aerospace engineering from University of Colorado in 1988.

Chawla flew on the STS-87 in 1997 and STS-107 in 2003 and had logged 30 days, 14 hours and 54 minutes in space, according to NASA.

She passed away in 2003 when the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated over Texas during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. The mishap happened 16 minutes prior to scheduled landing.

“Her final research conducted onboard 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,” the company said.

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