BOULDER, CO, May 8, 2013 — The Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has completed a feasibility study of new commercial lunar lander configurations for the Golden Spike Company (GSC), conceiving of a novel low-mass ascent stage concept for Golden Spike, dubbed “Pumpkin.”
Northrop Grumman was contracted by Golden Spike in 2012 to help with the design of a new lander that fits within Golden Spike’s “head start” commercial lunar expedition architecture. Golden Spike aims to use existing or emerging rockets and commercial-crew spacecraft 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.
[frame type=”lifted” align=”none”]Golden Spike Lunar Lander Concept[/frame]
Northrop Grumman’s lander study work for Golden Spike included:
  • Reviewing GSC’s level one requirements and synthesized a set of study ground rules and assumptions emphasizing automated operations, simplicity and low cost
  • Establishing propulsion requirements for lunar orbit loiter, descent to the lunar surface, ascent to low lunar orbit and rendezvous with a crew vehicle for pragmatic lunar landing sites
  • Developing current and stretch factors to reflect the improvement in relevant technologies since the completion of the Apollo program
  • Evaluating 180 lunar lander design configuration cases for various options and sensitivities including loiter, staging, propellants, engines, surface duration, surface cargo and technology basis
  • Establishing a pragmatic design trade space for future more detailed analysis and development
In addition to confirming the viability of various lander concepts for Golden Spike’s lunar expedition architecture, the study identified novel options using a minimalist pressurized ascent pod and descent stage with a surface habitat. A preliminary drawing of the concept is attached to this release. This unique approach meets Golden Spike’s objectives with all-storable propellants, and reduces development risks and costs.
The study also determined there are more options for cryogenic propellants compared with storable propellants for Golden Spike’s mission architecture, but that multiple storable propellant options are possible. Cryogenic propellants have higher performance but are more difficult to contain for the Golden Spike mission duration than storable propellants such as those used in the Apollo program.
Commenting on the novel lunar lander idea for Golden Spike’s architecture, Martin McLaughlin, Northrop Grumman’s study leader 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 and since it returns the crew to orbit after the surface exploration party.”

Golden Spike’s President and CEO, Dr. Alan Stern added: “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 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.
About Northrop Grumman: Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in unmanned systems, cybersecurity, C4ISR, and logistics and modernization to government and commercial customers worldwide. Please for more information or contact Bob Bishop at or (310) 812-5227.
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. For more information visit or contact Bobby Block or (202) 294-6631.


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Sebastien Clarke
Sebastien Clarke

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