Thursday, May 9, 2013

Northrop Grumman Completes Golden Spike Lunar Lander Study

Northrop Grumman preliminary schematic shows a 'minimalist' ascent pod with surface habitat concept packaged in a 5-meter payload fairing. The pressurized compartments and propellant tanks easily fit in available space. Ascent thrusters are mounted on outriggers that are folded up to fit in the payload fairing and the landing gear is folded inward. Also shown are initial side and top views of the ascent pod “Pumpkin” and the surface habitat with crew members in pressure suits [Northrop Grumman].
Ben Evans

More than four decades since its last human-piloted craft touched down on the Moon, Northrop Grumman has concluded a feasibility study of a new commercial landing vehicle for the Golden Spike Company. It includes a novel, low-mass ascent stage concept, dubbed “Pumpkin”, and centers on the need to be packaged within a 5-meter payload fairing envelope, as well as offering insights into the kind of propellants necessary to accomplish Golden Spike’s goal of bootprints on the lunar surface by 2020.

Unveiled to the world last December, after several months of excited speculation, Golden Spike was founded by Alan Stern, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in 2007-2008 and principal investigator for the agency’s New Horizons voyage to Pluto, and includes former Apollo flight director Gerry Griffin as chair of the board. It seeks to develop a capability to send astronauts from U.S. and foreign space agencies, corporations, governments and even private individuals on two-person expeditions to the Moon, at a cost of $1.5 billion. Within weeks, in January 2013, Golden Spike announced that it had contracted with Northrop Grumman to begin lunar lander design studies.

It was a notable move, for the Falls Church, Virginia-based aerospace and defense contractor is the only organization in the world to have successfully developed and flown a piloted craft to the surface of the Moon. Its Apollo lunar module ferried six pairs of astronauts to the dusty surface of our closest celestial neighbor between July 1969 and December 1972.

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