An American commercial cargo spacecraft bound for the International Space Station(ISS) has been named after late NASA astronaut Kalpana Chawla. The gesture comes as a tribute to Chawla, who was the first India-born woman to enter space and her contributions to human spaceflight.
Northrop Grumman, an American global aerospace and defence technology company said that its next Cygnus capsule will be named the "S.S. Kalpana Chawla" in memory of Chawla who died along with her six crewmates aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 2003.
"Today we honour Kalpana Chawla, who made history at @NASA as the first female astronaut of Indian descent. Her contributions to human spaceflight have had a lasting impact," Northrop Grumman said in a tweet on Wednesday, September 9.
"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," the company said.
The new spacecraft is scheduled to lift-off to ISS on September 29.
"Chawla was selected in honour of her prominent place in history as the first woman of Indian descent to go to space. While Chawla made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the space programme, her legacy lives on through her fellow astronauts and those she has inspired to follow in her footsteps," the company added.
Chawla was born in Karnal, Haryana, India on March 17, 1962 and 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. Chawla and the rest of the crew died when the shuttle broke up on entry to earth on February 1 over Southern US, just 16 minutes away from its scheduled landing.