Marcia Lindstrom, who leads the Strategic Communications Team for NASA, talks to Collins Aerospace employees on Tuesday, July 18, 2023, during an event celebrating the successful launch of Artemis I in November. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)
By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — Workers at Collins Aerospace in Rockford have a hand in a complex series of missions designed to return astronauts to the moon for the first time in 50 years.

More than 100 of the roughly 2,000 workers at the technology and aerospace company on Harrison Avenue play a role in NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to establish the first long-term human presence on and around the moon. The mission is considered a key step in an eventual trip to Mars.

Artemis builds off the Apollo program, which put man on the moon for the first time in 1969. The last time a person was on the moon was during Apollo 17 in December 1972.

“Apollo changed the way we saw ourselves and our solar system,” Marcia Lindstrom, who leads the Strategic Communications Team for NASA, said during an event Tuesday at Collins Aerospace. “This will do it again. Apollo was about getting there. Artemis is about staying there and going beyond.”

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NASA, as well as officials from Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed were in Rockford to celebrate the successful launch of Artemis I, an uncrewed vessel that traveled 1.4 million miles around the moon and back over 25 days in mid-November to December last year.

Collins aerospace provided multiple hardware systems for that launch, and it will continue to do so on future Artemis missions.

NASA says that Artemis II, which is planned for 2024, will bring the first woman, Christina Hammock Koch, and first Black person, Victor Glover, on a lunar mission. That mission will orbit the moon. Then in 2025 the space agency plans for Artemis III to land on the lunar surface.

“We are just getting started, and we need you all to continue to push with the same amount of enthusiasm and rigor in your work that you used for Artemis I,” Lindstrom told Collins Aerospace employees gathered for the event. “Your fingerprints are all over Artemis I. They will be all over Artemis II, III, IV, V, and as we continue to press toward not just the moon but onto Mars.”

Collins Aerospace displays a core auxiliary power unit for the thrust vector control system on Tuesday, July 18, 2023, during an event celebrating the successful launch of Artemis I. The unit on display is similar to what was part of the space launch in November. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

Rockford workers supply thrust vector control, or TVC, components for the Boeing core stage RS-25 engines and Northrup Grumman solid rocket boosters. The components power the actuators that steer the rocket through its ascent.

Collins engineering team supports the design and supply of the Lockheed Orion crew module power management systems.

The hardware worked flawlessly on the Artemis I launch, NASA and Collins Aerospace representatives said.

“It’s a really exciting time for Collins Aerospace to be part of the Artemis program, the twin sister of Apollo, and to return our astronauts to the moon for the first time in 50 years,” said Chad Schoenrock, Collins Aerospace senior program manager. “I’m really proud and happy to be part of this team, and I’m really excited to see NASA return our astronauts to the moon.”

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Collins Aerospace also supports the launch abort system’s lightning suppression system, and its hardware plays a role in allowing the Orion crew capsule to dispatch from the rocket at a high rate of speed in case of emergency. Schoenrock said that feature is often the attention-grabber for kids when he speaks about the company’s work at schools.

“That goes from 0 to 500 miles per hour in two seconds,” he said. “I don’t know if anybody will be awake for that ride, but at least they’ll be away from the danger.”

Collins Aerospace has already delivered its hardware for Artemis II, a 10-day long crewed mission scheduled for November 2024.

“We’re still working on Artemis III through VI hardware to deliver to the customer in the coming years,” Schoenrock said.

Collins Aerospace isn’t the only local company with a piece of missions to space. There are multiple suppliers that supporting Collins, and Ingersoll Machine Tools in Rockford has components that support the Orion crew capsule. Ingersoll also built the The Rosenberg Space Habitat, a 3-D printed moon habitat that was named the Coolest Thing Made in Illinois earlier this year.

“A lot of folks don’t know about all the good work that’s happening here in Rockford to support the Artemis program and return our astronauts to the moon,” Schoenrock said.

Collins Aerospace employees and visitors gathered Tuesday, July 18, 2023, for an event celebrating the successful launch of Artemis I in November. Collins Aerospace has several hardware component supporting the Artemis programs. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at or follow him on Twitter at @KevinMHaas or Instagram @thekevinhaas and Threads @thekevinhaas

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