NASASpaceFlight.com reports on January 3rd that the Golden Spike Company, a start up that proposes to land people on the moon on a commercial basis, has contracted with Northrop Grumman to design its lunar lander. The original Apollo lunar lander was designed by Tom Kelly, who worked for the Grumman Aircraft Company.
A lunar lander is one of the pieces of hardware that Golden Spike needs that cannot be bought off the shelf and modified for cis-lunar operations. Northrop Grumman has agreed to begin a preliminary process of drawing up requirements for a lunar lander capable of delivering two people to the surface of the moon even though Golden Spike has yet to raise any significant capital. The commercial lunar company hopes to get money from people and institutions interested in traveling to the moon and back.
In the meantime the same article suggests that a lunar return is still in the back of NASA’s collective mind, despite the fact that President Obama cancelled the Constellation return to the moon program and has ordered the space agency to send astronauts to an asteroid. The NASA version of a lunar lander would be larger than Golden Spike’s, capable of carrying four astronauts to and from the lunar surface. The mission profile would involve a version of the Space Launch System delivering a lunar lander into orbit around the moon. Later another SLS would send an Orion MPCV to lunar orbit to dock with the lunar lander. The Golden Spike mission would likely involve the planned SpaceX Falcon Heavy.