Northrop Grumman is proud to name the NG-14 Cygnus spacecraft after former astronaut Kalpana Chawla

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 named the NG-14 Cygnus spacecraft after former astronaut Kalpana Chawla. Image credit: Twitter

About Kalpana Chawla

Kalpana Chawla was born in Karnal, Haryana, India on March 17, 1962. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College in India in 1982. Chawla then moved to the United States to pursue her graduate education; in 1984 she received a Master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas, and a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado in 1988. She held commercial pilot’s licenses for single- and multi-engine airplanes, seaplanes and gliders, and was also a certified flight instructor.


Chawla began her career at NASA in 1988 as a powered-lift computational fluid dynamics researcher at the Ames Research Center in California. Her work concentrated on the simulation of complex air flows encountered by aircraft flying in “ground-effect.” In 1993, Chawla joined Overset Methods Inc. as vice president and a researcher in aerodynamics.


After becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in April 1991, Chawla applied for the NASA astronauts corps. She was selected in December 1994, and reported to the Johnson Space Center in Houston in 1995 as an astronaut candidate in Group 15. In November 1996, Chawla was assigned as a mission specialist on STS-87 aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, becoming the first woman of Indian descent to fly in space.


Chawla’s second spaceflight experience came in 2001 when she was selected for the crew of STS-107. The flight was dedicated to science and research, with approximately 80 experiments completed.


Chawla, who devoted her entire life to understanding flight dynamics, lost her life during the STS-107 mission when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentering the Earth’s atmosphere. 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. 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.


NG-14 mission

For the NG-14 mission, the Cygnus spacecraft will deliver approximately 3,629 kg (8,000lb.) of cargo to the space station. Cygnus is comprised of two primary components, the Pressurized Cargo Module and the Service Module. In keeping with company tradition, each spacecraft is named after an important figure in the aerospace industry. Northrop Grumman is honored to name the NG-14 Cygnus spacecraft after the first woman of Indian descent to fly in space, Kalpana Chawla.

NG-14 Engineers load the Cygnus spacecraft onto an Antares rocket. Image credit: Northrop Grumman

The S.S. Kalpana Chawla will be launched into orbit using an Antares 230+ rocket from Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Pad 0A on Wallops Island, Virginia. Northrop Grumman will once again load critical cargo into Cygnus, 24 hours before the scheduled launch. Upon arrival at the International Space Station, the cargo will be unloaded from Cygnus. For the fifth time, Cygnus will host the Spacecraft Fire Experiment -V (Saffire-V) experiment to study the behavior of large-scale fires in microgravity that will be performed once the spacecraft departs the station. Once its mission has been completed, Cygnus will perform a safe, destructive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.


About Antares Rocket

Designed to provide responsive and low-cost access to space, the Antares rocket is a two-stage vehicle (with optional third stage) that provides low-Earth orbit (LEO) launch capability for payloads weighing up to 8,000 kg. The rocket's design has been upgraded with newly-built RD-181 first stage engines to provide greater payload performance and increased reliability.Today the rocket is primarily used to support the company's Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA.


The Antares launch system utilizes Northrop Grumman's proven MACH avionics system and many management approaches, engineering standards, production and test processes common to Northrop Grumman's family of successful small-class Pegasus and Minotaur launch vehicles. The Antares design utilizes powerful RD-181 first stage engines that deliver excellent payload performance and high reliability.


Why is Cygnus Unique?

The Cygnus system is a flight proven design incorporating elements drawn from Northrop Grumman and its partners' existing, flight-proven spacecraft technologies. Cygnus consists of a service module and a pressurized cargo module. The Cygnus spacecraft is used to carry crew supplies, spare equipment and scientific experiments to the space station. The service module incorporates advanced avionics developed by Northrop Grumman and guidance and navigation components that allow for fully autonomous rendezvous with the space station. The avionics design fully meets all of the demanding NASA safety requirements imposed on human-rated vehicles. The pressurized cargo module is manufactured by Thales Alenia Space specifically for Cygnus.


To the ISS and Beyond

Cygnus Pioneers a New Economy in Low-Earth Orbit. Currently, Northrop Grumman uses Cygnus to perform International Space Station resupply flights under the second Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract. Beginning in 2014, Cygnus has carried more than 70,000 pounds (31,500 kg) of critical cargo to the station under the first CRS-1 contract. In November 2019, the company flew the first CRS-2 mission, NG-12, and will carry out a minimum of five additional missions under this contract.


The Cygnus vehicle provides a number of advanced capabilities during these cargo resupply missions. The spacecraft has already demonstrated a number of these, including the launch of cube satellites from external deployers, the delivery of live rodents to the station, the ability to act as laboratory space while docked to the station, boosting the station's orbit and flying in orbit separately from the station for more than one year.


Source: Northrop Grumman