US Spacecraft named after late Indian-American astronaut Kalpana Chawla

Washington: American aerospace and defence technology company Northrop Grumman has named a spacecraft after late astronaut Kalpana Chawla who became 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,” the company said.

“Chawla was selected in honour of her prominent place in history as the first woman of Indian descent to go to space,” it added.

The launch of the Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus spacecraft “S.S. Kalpana Chawla” is scheduled for September 29 from Wallops Island, Virginia.

Northrop Grumman 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 July 1, 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 STS-87 (1997) and STS-107 (2003) and has logged 30 days, 14 hours and 54 minutes in space, according to NASA.

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

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