The Elements of Innovation Discovered

DARPA enlists Northrop for Moon railroad

Metal Tech News - March 27, 2024

Begins study to develop first railroad network on the Moon for future extraterrestrial habitation.

Invoking a time when Americans began voyaging across the continent in steam-powered engines, Northrop Grumman Corp. has been selected by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to further develop the concept of building a Moon-based railroad network.

As part of a broader 10-year Lunar Architecture (LunA-10) Capability Study, this envisioned lunar railroad network would be capable of transporting astronauts, supplies, and resources for potential commercial ventures across the lunar landscape – becoming the cornerstone for a future space economy.

"This investment in key developmental research keeps our technology at the forefront of next generation solutions," said Chris Adams, vice president and general manager, strategic space systems, Northrop Grumman. "With our proven experience in the integration of complex systems and commercialized autonomous services, we will continue to create lasting change for a sustainable space ecosystem."

DARPA's LunA-10 Capability Study is intended to quickly create new technology ideas, shifting from individual scientific projects to shared, scalable systems that work together.

Like other seed ideas, the goal is to first establish a framework for all the pieces that would be necessary to create a fully functional rail system on the Moon.

For its part, Northrop Grumman's own study will include the definition of interfaces and resources required to construct a lunar rail network; establishing a critical list of costs, technological and logistical risks; identifying prototypes, which include demonstrations and analyses of a fully operational system's concept, design, and architecture; and exploring concepts for constructing and operating the system with robotics, including grading and foundation preparation, track placement and alignment, joining and finishing, inspection, as well as maintenance and repair.

Taking the viewpoint of a 19th-century individual, as the world got busy with constructing trains to the eventual completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, much like the people at the time, it could be viewed with a skeptic's eye.

However, much like the Space Race accomplished the impossible, this study may very well be the first rumblings of the first Extraterrestrial Railroad that may transport precious cargo over the very horizons of our Moon.


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