NASA’s Spacecraft named after Kalpana Chawla

To honor her contributions at NASA as an astronaut, Northrop Grumman has named its next spacecraft bound to the International space station after Dr. Kalpana Chawla, the late astronaut of Indian descent.

The spacecraft was named “S.S. Kalpana Chawla,” to commemorate the life of the mission specialist who died with her six crewmates aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 2003—announced on Wednesday, September 9, by Northrop Grumman.

According to a report produced by ANI, the company revealed that Northrop Grumman is proud to name the NG-14 Cygnus spacecraft after former astronaut Kalpana Chawla.

“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,” Northrop Grumman stated.

India’s first female astronaut

India’s first female astronaut, Kalpana Chawla, was born on July 1, 1961. She was the youngest of four children. The name Kalpana means “idea” or “imagination.” Her full name is pronounced as CULL-puh-na CHAV-la, though she often went by the nickname K.C.

Kalpana Chawla became the first female astronaut of Indian origin who got an opportunity to fly into space. As a child, she always knew that she wanted to become an astronaut. Her inspiration was her father, who used to take her to plane rides. She was then inspired by watching the flying planes and decided to pursue her career in aerospace engineering.

She joined NASA in the year 1988 and made her first flight was STS-87, the fourth US Microgravity Payload flight. It took off from Columbia on November 19, 1997. Her second flight was on January 16, 2003- the STS-107—perished in space in an unfortunate accident.

Bound to ISS

The spacecraft falls under the category of the Cygnus space crafts. It is a resupply ship for the International Space Station. The S.S. Kalpana Chawla spacecraft will deliver approximately 3 629 kilograms of cargo to the Space Station. The spacecraft is scheduled for its liftoff on Septemeber 29. According to a report, “It will be launched into its orbit from Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Wallops Island, Virginia, United States.”

Importance of S.S. Kalpana Chawla

The S.S. Kalpana Chawla will not only deliver cargo to the International Space Station. Upon returning, it will also perform a vital experiment called the Spacecraft Fire Experiment- V (Saffire- V) that will study the “behavior of large scale fires in microgravity.” Following the investigation, the spacecraft will perform a safe and destructive reentry in the Earth’s atmosphere upon the Pacific Ocean.

Image courtesy of ZRyzner/Shutterstock

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