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NASA launches SS Kalpana Chawla cargo spacecraft

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched a commercial cargo spacecraft  bound for the International Space Station (ISS) named after the first Indian-born woman to enter space,NASA astronaut Kalpana “K.C.” Chawla.

The S.S. Kalpana Chawla launched from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at 09:38 p.m. EDT.

The spacecraft, a Northrop Grumman Cygnus, will arrive at and be attached to the space station two days later.

The Cygnus is named after the late astronaut to commemorate her key contributions to human spaceflight.

On the NG-14 mission, the S.S. Kalpana Chawla will deliver approximately 3,630 kilograms of cargo to the station.

Robyn Gatens, acting director of the International Space Station at NASA headquarters, said that the flight is carrying 6,000 pounds of cargo including refined radishes and a 3D camera, that’s going to go on the outside of the space station to take images when the crew is doing a spacewalk.

“Well, we’ve got a little bit of everything on this flight we’ve got 6000 pounds of cargo going up, we have the. We have several things enabling future exploration missions, beyond the space station, so our missions to the moon and to Mars. Not only do we have the toilet, that you’ve heard about but we have another one in our series of fire safety experiments called Sapphire, we have a component of our new spacesuit that we’ll be testing in microgravity on the space station.”

~Robyn Gatens, acting director of the International Space Station at NASA headquarters

Research aboard the spacecraft comprises of the test of a biologic drug that could be used for the treatment of leukemia, a plant growth study that will cultivate radishes as a model for future crops in space.

The 8,000-pound shipment onboard cargo spacecraft named after Kalpana Chawla marked a special moment for many, including Chawla’s husband.

 “I would say that Kalpana would be very flattered that this rocket is named after her,” Jean Pierre Harrison said.

In an interview, he further added that the launch even had a deeper and a larger context- that “Indians can compete with the rest of the world to be successful.”

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