GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids company is working on a project that will launch in the Artemis II capsule for a mission around the moon.

Just last week the agency announced Christina Koch, an astronaut from Grand Rapids, will be one of the four people on board.

The mission will be the first time a crew will orbit the moon in more than 50 years.

DornerWorks is working with a chip maker to develop an ethernet switch that will be used for communications from the Orion spacecraft, according to Gregg Wildes the business development and partnership manager. The company is developing software for the chip.

DornerWorks in Grand Rapids. (April 11, 2023)
DornerWorks in Grand Rapids. (April 11, 2023)

“We’re Michigan-based. We’re excited that a Michigan-based technology business is helping with the advanced networking and enabling future NASA missions to the moon and beyond,” Wildes said. “So for one of the astronauts to be from the Grand Rapids-area is really exciting for us.”

David Johnson, the group manager on the project, said they are thrilled to partner with NASA.       

“Grand Rapids has a great space history with Roger B Chaffee and I feel like this is just extending his legacy,” Johnson said. “We’re just really proud that DornerWorks is a part of that.”

Chaffee was a pioneering astronaut in the original moon program. He died in the Apollo I mission after a fire ignited in the cockpit. 

Koch has years of experience working as an astronaut and will be the only woman on the Artemis II mission.

“Having daughters, it’s really exciting for me to go and tell them, ‘Hey look at this astronaut who made it up to space,’ and it’s something for them to be encouraged by,” Johnson said.

The chips must meet strict standards set by NASA so they can operate in difficult conditions like with high levels of radiation.

“Making those chips and the software that runs on those chips very, very reliable to enable advanced and very reliable networking on the space capsule,” Wildes said.

DornerWorks has sent engineers to Colorado to help test the chips.

“Into an actual system integration lab that has the actual space capsule there so we’re plugging in the electronics and then doing system level testing, end-to-end testing, of system-to-system, of other suppliers products and making sure that that’s all interoperable,” Wildes said.

DornerWorks hopes to partner with NASA to the moon and beyond.

“Artemis II and then eventually Artemis III and then there’s future Artemis missions beyond that,” Wildes said. “NASA is continuing to evolve that capability for around the moon, then on the moon, then Mars.”