MASON — When the Artemis 1 mission blasted off in November, a Warren County company was key to making it happen.
“We designed and developed and built and tested over 30 different avionics units,” said Mark Dapore at L3 Harris.
He is the technical director for Space Products at L3 Harris, which is playing a major role for the missions to the moon and Mars. The technology designed by their team controls everything from lighting the solid rocket boosters for the launch to each of the separation stages and even the great video streams as the rocket and its payload leave earth, among many other responsibilities, Dapore said.
Even prior to the most recent Artemis launch L3 Harris helped keep the lights on, so to speak, at the International Space Station when it came to resupply missions and rotating out astronauts.
“We do have components on the ISS, and we have radios that actually help capsules dock with the International Space Station. So, we are in that in that business of providing safe passage for astronauts to both the ISS and eventually back to the moon,” Dapore said.
Speaking of that mission to the moon — this first mission, launched Nov. 16, sent the Orion capsule into an orbit to the moon and back. The second mission will do the same thing but will carry astronauts around the moon and the third will allow humans to touch the lunar surface again.
“It’s very, very exciting to see that we are now branching out. Humans have been constrained to low Earth orbit now the International Space Station for the last 50 years,” Dapore said. “So, we’re now branching out going out beyond Earth orbit and to the moon and eventually to Mars.”
The company’s handiwork is already on Mars; without their technology the Mars rovers would have had a lot to report, but no way to send the information.
“Our radios are actually embedded within the rover body itself, the only thing you can see is the antenna is actually on the deck on top. And the antenna is actually pointed up so that it can talk to the satellite overhead,” he said.
Each of these missions a stepping stone for future missions the company’s engineers are already working on.
“So, all of the information, and all of the lessons learned that we’ve had from this mission here is going to be utilized for the Mars sample return mission where we will actually send spacecraft out to Mars, land on the surface, gather the samples, and then it will come back to Earth,” said Dapore
It’s a mission he said they’re already providing the hardware for so that NASA can bring those Martian soil samples back for analysis to better understand our solar system.
Ohio’s roots to space exploration run deep and Dapore is quick to point out that there are plenty of opportunities still today.
“A lot of people don’t realize that we have a space, a really, really large space group right here in in Cincinnati, so you don’t have to leave and go to the coast to work in the space industry,” he said. “You can work right here in Mason, Ohio, and we have plenty of high-tech engineering jobs. Right here, Mason.”
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