Golden Spike Taps Northrop Grumman to Refine Lunar Lander Concepts

Mooncat?Credit:  Golden Spike

Credit: Golden Spike


The Golden Spike Company announced last week that it has selected Northrop Grumman to conduct a design trade for the lunar lander which would be required to bring about its vision of privately conducted manned trips to the Moon. The construction of the actual lander would come after a competition in which the defense giant might not necessarily be the winner.

As the prime contractor for the NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, perhaps the all time poster child for massively overbudget space projects, the selection of Northrop Grumman to design a minimal cost lunar landing craft is not without some irony, but at least it makes historical sense.  As many will recall, one of its predecessor companies,  Grumman Aircraft Engineering was the prime contractor for the Apollo Lunar Module, and the new effort is promoted as building on that heritage.  Some have pointed out that nearly 50 years after the fact, how much actual expertise still resides in what is now a totally different company is a legitimate question. Nevertheless,  corporate or institutional memory, while an elusive concept, can exert a powerful influence over the way successive generations take on new challenges. At the very least it fosters a mindset of “We can do this. ”

On an optimistic note, it seems possible that the inclusion of another major defense contractor besides Boeing and Lockheed Martin into crewed space systems, particularly one like the Golden Spike proposal which is certain to have very tight financial margins, could also serve as a catalyst to accelerate the introduction of the vast pool of engineering talent in the cost plus world of traditional government contracting into an emerging era of privately funded, fixed price space developments.

Given the long history of “cat” names given to its military aircraft,  Hellcat, Bearcat,  and of course  Tomcat,  is their any doubt that should the Northrop Grumman be tapped to build the actual lander, it will become known as the “Mooncat?”

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