Artemis 1: Scottsdale company plays vital role in first attempt to fly to moon and back since Apollo program

As attention turns to NASA's attempts to launch a rocket on a 37-day mission that will orbit the Moon and return to Earth, we are also taking a look at how one Scottsdale company is playing a small, yet major role in the Artemis 1 mission.

Atop the rocket for the Artemis 1 is a crew capsule with three test dummies. This will be NASA’s first attempt to orbit the moon and return to Earth since the Apollo program 50 years ago. NASA wants to wring out the spacecraft before strapping in astronauts on the next planned flight in two years.

The part General Dynamics created for the Artemis mission is the communications link from space back to Earth, and the part is only about 8'' by 10''.

"The S-Band Transponder is the main communications link to the Orion vehicle, so all of the commands to the spacecraft, all of the data that they get back is through our radio," said Cody Wilkinson, Deputy Program Manager for Engineering at General Dynamics.

This is one of the most high-profile projects General Dynamics has played a role in. The company has had hundreds of employees working on it, for the past 15 years, and the transponders and emergency radios that will be on the Orion spacecraft were delivered for this NASA mission in 2018.

It can be said, pun intended, that General Dynamics employees are over the moon about the Artemis 1 mission's launch, which is set to take place on Sept. 3.

"It’s getting a lot of attention, being the first time we’re going back to the moon in 30 years, 40 years, so it’s exciting," said Wilkinson.

The technology General Dynamics designed and built is meant to withstand five trips to space. The team is already working on upgrades for the next one.

"The one thing that’s somewhat unique about Artemis is that it comes back," said Wilkinson. "A lot of what we do for space goes out to space on a satellite and never comes back. This hardware is coming back, and it’s actually going to come back to us. We’re going to do some upgrades to it and then send it back out to support future Artemis missions."

The equipment, after fine-tuning and upgrades, will go on to the Artemis 2 mission next, which will be the first manned mission to the moon in decades.

Also read: Artemis 1 countdown resumes for Saturday launch; weather forecast improves

The Associated Press (AP) and FOX Weather contributed to this report.