The well-known space and military contractor Northrop Grumman has been selected by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a concept for a lunar rail network.

According to Northrop Grumman, this study is part of a broader 10-year Lunar Architecture (LunA-10) Capability Study program that aims to develop technologies and infrastructure concepts for scientific and commercial activities of permanent human settlement on the Moon.

Northrop Grumman’s study will:

  • define the interfaces and resources required to build a lunar rail network;
  • establish a critical list of foreseeable cost, technological and logistical risks;
  • identify prototypes, demonstrations and analyses of a fully operating lunar rail system’s concept design and architecture;
  • explore concepts for constructing and operating the system with robotics, including grading and foundation preparation, track placement and alignment, joining and finishing, inspection, maintenance and repair.

If you think that the railroad is not the most convenient mode of transportation for the Moon, you are wrong. Just as on Earth, in terms of cost and resources, in this case limited, rail will be an economically attractive way to move cargo on the Moon.

Northrop Grumman is well known as a manufacturer of state-of-the-art fighter jets Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, B-2 Spirit bombers and RQ-4 Global Hawk drones, but the company is no stranger to space. Northrop Grumman participated in the creation of the James Webb Space Telescope, operates Cygnus cargo spacecraft and Antares launch vehicles.