The commercial cargo spacecraft that will take off from the Wallops Island launch site in Virginia, United States on September 29 aboard the Antares satellite launch vehicle is set for the International Space Station. It would launch into space under the name of Kalpana Chawla, the first woman of Indian descent. The satellite enters the ISS and will be connected to it two days later.
In remembrance of the mission expert who died in 2003 along with six of her crewmates onboard the space shuttle Columbia, the Cygnus capsule has been called the ‘SS Kalpana Chawla.’
The Cygnus NG-14 mission page of Northrop Grumman reads: “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.”
“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 firm further added
Born in Haryana, India, Chawla had emigrated to the US to finish her higher studies in aerospace engineering. She had begun her career at NASA as a fluid dynamics researcher at Ames Research Center in California.
She subsequently became a naturalized U.S. citizen and decided to become an astronaut of NASA. She’d conducted a 15-day shuttle flight on STS-87 in 1997. However, on 1 February 2003, Chawla’s second spaceflight ‘STS-107’ met with a horrific accident killing all members of the crew.
The SS Kalpana Chawla is the second Cygnus to have been named after an STS-107 crew member. In 2016 the last commander of SS Columbia, Rick Husband, was also honored in a similar way.