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Draper Labs to ascertain lunar landing sites for Golden Spike

Moon as seen by Apollo 12
NASA

Though it has yet to announce a customer for its commercial lunar expedition service, Golden Spike has contracted with Draper Laboratories to evaluate possible lunar landing sites, according to NASASpaceFlight.com in a January 22, 2014 story. Draper is the latest in a number of corporate partners that the company has managed to attract to its effort. Northrop Grumman, for example, has been contracted to design Golden Spike’s lunar lander.

The company is still adhering to an aggressive program that involves test flights starting in 2017 and the first commercial lunar flight by 2020. However to adhere to such a schedule it will need either investors to raise the $7 billion or so it needs to get its commercial crew lunar flight operation off the ground or it needs to line up some customers, individuals, institutions, or countries to pay the $1.5 billion cost per flight. There are a number of possibilities, of course, who might contract Golden Spike’s services. The company believes there are 15 to 25 possible customers for lunar expeditions in the 2020s decade.

Draper has had great experience in lunar mission planning and operations.

“Using their advanced Guidance, Navigation and Control (GN&C) systems, high-performance, reliable space science instruments, and processing systems, the company will provide a similar role as utilized during the Constellation Program (CxP), back when NASA still had the Moon as a stepping towards missions to Mars.

“Their involvement also ranges back to the Apollo era.” Draper provided GNC and flight computers for the Apollo lunar landings.

“The process will take around six months, with the work involving the compatibility of the Golden Spike lander concepts to determine how the constraints of safely landing, lighting, terrain, orbit, delta-V capability affect the fraction of the lunar front side available as potential landing areas.

“The work will also evaluate potential enhancements to the Golden Spike landers that may further increase the potential area available for landing, along with defining a recommended notional architecture for Golden Spike lunar mission guidance system including functional allocation, algorithms functionality and electronic architecture.

“While specific destinations will be customer-driven, as previously noted by the company, Golden Spike expect to enable access to large areas of the near side of the Moon via their initial capability.”

Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo, The Last Moonwalker and Other Stories, and The Man from Mars: The Asteroid Mining Caper