DARPA Funds Pie-In-the-Sky Moon Train Study

Image: NASA

Out: the train to space. In: the inter-Moon-base express.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) tapped Northrop Grumman ($NOC) to develop a concept for a lunar railroad, the defense prime announced yesterday. The contract was awarded under the LunA-10 initiative, which is exploring all sorts of out-there concepts to encourage the growth of a sustainable lunar economy in the next decade.

The company will continue advancing the railroad concept it’s been working on in secret since securing the preliminary contract in December. That theoretical railroad would transport people and cargo across the Moon’s surface.

All aboard: It’s going to take a village to build a lunar…uh…village. That’s the reasoning behind DARPA’s 10-Year Lunar Architecture program, which is intended to de-risk the technologies that could expand the US’ capabilities in space and support the growth of a commercial opportunity on the Moon.

  • Other projects selected for the exploratory program include GITAI’s inchworm robots, Sierra Space’s oxygen-extraction tech, and ICON’s 3D printing using lunar regolith.
  • 14 total companies are participating in the consortium.

Don’t get it twisted—these projects are by and large in super early stages, and there’s no guaranteed path to deployment. Instead, DARPA and the LunA-10 companies are spending their time dreaming big and considering how each contribution would complement the others.

Full steam ahead: Now that Northrop has secured a follow-on contract for its train concept, the development continues. The company will continue working with the larger group to think through the railroad’s place in the mix of technologies vying for the place in a commercial lunar landscape.

Planes, trains, and automobiles: It’ll take multiple modes of transportation to cover ground on the Moon. On April 3, NASA will announce the company or companies selected to build the Lunar Terrain Vehicle that will chauffeur astronauts across the lunar surface. 

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