Golden Spike Commissions Northrop Grumman for Lunar Lander Design

golden_spike_landerBOULDER, CO., January 3, 2013 (Golden Spike PR) – The Golden Spike Company announced today that it has entered into a contract with Northrop Grumman Corporation for the design of a new lunar lander that fits within Golden Spike’s “head start” commercial lunar architecture.
Northrop Grumman’s participation brings heritage lunar engineering expertise to Golden Spike. Northrop Grumman is a major aerospace and defense contractor. Its legacy companies — Grumman and TRW — designed and built the Lunar Module and Lunar Module Descent Engines for the Apollo moon landing missions that between 1969 and 1972 ferried a crew of two astronauts from lunar orbit to the lunar surface and back again six times.
Golden Spike debuted last month as the first commercial aerospace company planning to offer routine exploration expeditions to the surface of the Moon by the end of the decade. The company aims to use existing rockets and emerging commercial-crew spacecraft to allow nations, individuals and corporations to mount their own lunar expeditions. The lander is the only significant hardware that needs to be designed from the ground up.
“This is a significant step forward in our plans,” said Golden Spike’s Board Chairman, Gerry Griffin. “Northrop Grumman brings Golden Spike a unique body of knowledge and skills as the only company to ever build a successful human-rated lunar lander, the Apollo Lunar Module.”
Dr. S. Alan Stern, Golden Spike’s President and CEO, added: “We’re very proud to be working with Northrop Grumman, which has the most experience and successful performance record for human lunar lander designs in the world.”
Among the tasks Northrop Grumman will perform for Golden Spike are:
  • Reviewing requirements and synthesizing a set of study ground rules and assumptions emphasizing system reliability, automated/ground command operability, and affordability
  • Establishing velocity (Δv) budgets from and to low lunar orbit for pragmatic lunar landing sites
  • Exploring a wide variety of Lunar Lander concept options, including staging, propellants, engines, reusability, autonomy, systems capabilities for exploration, as well as landing site flexibility
  • Establishing the design trade space and establish pragmatic limits for future more detailed analysis and development
“This study is one of a number of initial studies we’re undertaking to begin creating the design requirements and specs for the lander contract competition we expect to hold to select a Golden Spike lander for flight development,” said Golden Spike’s Lunar Lander Systems Study (LLaSS) engineering chief, James R. French.
Golden Spike predicts its customers will want to explore the Moon for varying reasons—scientific exploration and discovery, national prestige, commercial development, marketing, entertainment, and even personal achievement. Market studies by the company show the possibility of 15-25 or more expeditions in the decade following a first landing.
About Golden Spike: The Golden Spike Company (GSC) is a US-based commercial space company incorporated in 2010 with the objective of providing human expeditions to the Moon. It is named after the ceremonial final spike that joined the rails of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States, on May 10, 1869, and opened up the frontier to new opportunities. Similarly, Golden Spike intends to break new ground and create an enduring link to the next frontier, providing regular and reliable expeditions to the Moon at prices that create a new market for space commercialization and inspire millions.

  • Geoff T

    I’m very skeptical of golden spike, but I’m glad to see the lunar lander we’ve thus far seen in their promotional material isn’t actually the design they were going for. The draft design looks like it would be rather awkward to control given the cockpit being offset to the side of the centre of gravity.

    Anyone better qualified to comment have any thoughts on the design we’ve so far seen?

  • George

    So how many of the “legacy” employees are still around? As NASA has found out the hard way, much of the knowledge of how and why things were done has gone away as the old timers retired.

  • Andy

    @George – you took the words right out of my mouth. This press release really exaggerates “Northrop Grumman’s heritage lunar engineering expertise”.

  • Gary

    A few years ago, I saw Boeing boating that they were the company that developed and built the DC-3…because they had acquired McDonnell-Douglas (which of course was itself a merger with the firm that really was responsible for the DC-3, Douglas Aircraft Company). These firms have no shame.

  • Paul451

    I’m not “qualified”, but it seems to be based on bubble-canopy helicopters. Pilots seem to cope with landing those.

  • Thanks for that. Good news.

    Bob Clark

  • Marcus Zottl

    Regarding the cockpit of the conceptual lander design not being at the center of gravity. I have to agree with Paul, this isn’t any different from what your typical helicopter looks like, so I doubt this design would cause any serious problems.

  • Andy

    Now that you mention it, the lander looks a lot like a Bell 47 with three legs sans rotor and boom.

  • Geoff T

    I probably should have been a little clearer with my thoughts. I meant that having the cockpit offset to one side appears like it should create issues with balance during decent, as it seems that the mass of the cockpit on one side of the lander isn’t offset by any equivalent mass on the opposite side. However looking at the image again, it appears the descent rocket motor isn’t placed centrally but is actually slightly closer to the cockpit, meaning it would be directly under the centre of gravity anyway? Sorry about the misunderstanding!

  • Paul451

    Sorry I misunderstood. Now that you bring it up, presumably the fuel is in the centre, while the crew-mass is fixed (duh!) and offset, which means the centre of mass shifts sideways during the burn. That can’t be healthy. (I did notice that the nozzle seems off-centre, more towards the cockpit. But it’s easy to read too much into a PR photo artist’s impression.)