A spacecraft is named after Ellison Onizuka, NASA’s first Asian American astronaut

Ellison Onizuka, the first Asian American astronaut, was recently honored with a NASA spacecraft named after him. 

A fallen hero: Aerospace company Northrop Grumman named its NG-16 Cygnus spacecraft S.S. Ellison Onizuka after the astronaut died along with six other crew members in the tragic Space Shuttle Challenger mishap on Jan. 28, 1986, reported the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

  • NASA uses the robotic resupply spacecraft to deliver cargo, such as equipment and other supplies, to the International Space Station. 
  • According to a recent news release, the company said it is their tradition to name each Cygnus spacecraft after an “individual who has played a pivotal role in human spaceflight.”
  • “He made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the space program,” it read. “His legacy lives on in his fellow astronauts and all who he has inspired and taught to fly.”
  • Northrop Grumman Tactical Space Systems Vice President and General Manager Frank DeMauro said, Onizuka “lost his life in support of the advancement of the human exploration of space.”
  • S.S. Ellison Onizuka is set to launch on Aug. 10 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island for a 56-day mission at the ISS, according to NASA.


A trailblazer: Onizuka, who joined NASA’s astronaut program in 1978, completed a total of 74 hours in space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery for STS 51-C, the Department of Defense’s first space shuttle mission.

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  • According to NASA, Colonel Onizuka served as a flight test engineer and test pilot for the U.S. Air Force before becoming an astronaut.
  • Onizuka attended the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, where he worked with various aircrafts, including the F-84, F-100, F-105, F-111 and A-1.
  • Onizuka died during his second space shuttle mission aboard the ill-fated Challenger, which exploded just 73 seconds after lift-off.
  • The disaster prompted NASA to suspend all shuttle missions temporarily.

Remembering Onizuka: Numerous facilities have been dedicated to the late astronaut.

Featured Image via NASA STI Program

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