Skip to content

New spacecraft to be named after legendary NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson

Caroline Waterlow, Katherine Johnson and Ezra Edelman at the 89th Annual Academy Awards – Press Room held at the Hollywood and Highland Center in Hollywood on Feb. 26, 2017. (Photo credit: Shutterstock.com / Tinseltown)

Legendary NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson is getting a spacecraft named after her by the global aerospace and defense technology giant Northman Grumman.

The company announced this week that it will name its new NG-15 Cygnus the SS Katherine Johnson. The robotic resupply spacecraft will be used for an upcoming cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station.

Johnson worked for NASA for 33 years as a mathematician where she played a vital role with her projections and calculations of orbital mechanics. Her research ended up providing critical information needed for John Glenn to become the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962.

The spacecraft manufacturer has a tradition of naming aircrafts after people who’ve contributed to advancements in human space flight.

“Her work at NASA quite literally launched Americans into space, and her legacy continues to inspire young Black women every day,” the company said in a statement. “Northrop Grumman is proud to celebrate the life of Katherine Johnson and her endlessly perseverant spirit.”

According to NBC Dallas Fort Worth, The S.S. Katherine Johnson will carry out a resupply mission to the ISS and is scheduled to liftoff from Wallops Island, Virginia, on Feb. 20. The spacecraft will ride into space aboard an Antares rocket and bring the space station crew supplies, spare equipment and scientific experiments.

While at NASA, Johnson also contributed valuable calculations for the Apollo 11 lunar landing, and authored or coauthored 26 papers on orbital mechanics. NASA has also paid homage to Johnson’s work by naming their Computational Research Facility in Hampton, Virginia after her along with the Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia.

Actress Taraji P. Henson played Johnson in the 2016 film Hidden Figures which told Jonson’s remarkable story as well as that of fellow math scholars Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughn. Johnson also has her own doll as part of Barbie’s Inspiring Women series and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2015. She passed last year on Feb. 24 at the age of 103.