Northrop Grumman has completed a feasibility study of commercial lunar lander configurations for the Colorado-based Golden Spike Company. Part of the study includes a novel low-mass ascent stage concept, which Northrop Grumman calls Pumpkin.
Golden Spike plans to use existing or emerging rockets and capsules to provide a safe and efficient lunar transportation system that allows nations, individuals, and corporations to mount their own expeditions to the surface of the Moon. The lander is the only significant part of the architecture that needs to be designed from the ground up. Golden Spike engaged Northrop Grumman in 2012 to help with the lander design.
Northrop Grumman evaluated 180 lander configurations for loiter capabilities, staging, propellants, engines, surface duration, surface cargo, and technology.
The study confirmed the viability of various lander concepts for Golden Spike’s lunar expedition architecture and identified novel options using a minimalist pressurized ascent pod and descent stage with surface habitat. This unique approach meets Golden Spike’s objectives with all-storable propellants and reduces development risks and costs, Golden Spike said.
Northrop Grumman’s study leader Martin McLaughlin said, “This concept has significant operability advantages for surface exploration since the surface habitat can be segmented to isolate lunar dust and provides more space for living and for selecting the most valuable lunar return samples. We affectionately call the minimalist ascent pod Pumpkin due to its spherical shape.”
Golden Spike president and CEO Dr. Alan Stern said, “Northrop Grumman has done an exemplary job and helped advance Golden Spike’s technical approach to renewed human lunar exploration. The study’s results are very exciting and will help enable Golden Spike launch a new wave of human lunar exploration.”
Northrop Grumman’s participation brings heritage experience to Golden Spike. Northrop Grumman is a major aerospace and defense contractor whose heritage companies, Grumman and TRW, designed and built the Lunar Module and its Descent engine for the Apollo lunar missions.