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US spacecraft to be named after Indian-American astronaut Kalpana Chawla

By The SATimes News Service

Washington, DCThe next spacecraft carrying supplies to the International Space Station will be called SS Kalpana Chawla, after the first woman of Indian descent to go into space.

“Today we honor Kalpana Chawla, who made history at @NASA as the first female astronaut of Indian descent,” Northrop Grumman, makers of Cygnus spacecraft that will be carrying the payload, announced in a tweet.

“Her contributions to human spaceflight have had a lasting impact. Meet our next #Cygnus vehicle, the S.S. Kalpana Chawla.”

The lift-off of the new spacecraft to ISS is scheduled for September 29.

Chawla, who was born and raised in Karnal, became the first woman of Indian descent to go to space as a member of the crew of space Shuttle Columbia on January 16, 2003. She and the rest of the crew died on February 1 over southern US when the shuttle broke up on entry to earth, just 16 minutes away from its scheduled landing.

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. Chawla was selected in honor of her prominent place in history as the first woman of Indian descent to go to space.”

The S.S. Kalpana Chawla will be mounted atop the firm’s Antares rocket, which is a two-stage vehicle with an optional third stage that provides low-Earth orbit launch capability for payloads weighing up to 8,000 kg.

The Northrop Grumman said that while Chawla made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the space program, her legacy lives on through her fellow astronauts and those she has inspired to follow in her footsteps.

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