DARPA aims to build a lunar railroad in its latest effort to establish a human colony on the Moon

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has set its sights on the Moon, recently choosing defense giant Northrop Grumman to work on concepts for building a lunar railroad network, according to the Debrief.

The recent development is DARPA’s latest announcement concerning their 10-year Lunar Architecture (LunA-10) Capability Study. The ultimate goal is to reportedly establish a human colony on the Moon and a “thriving lunar economy.”

DARPA published the following statement about the development:

The 10-Year Lunar Architecture (LunA-10) will explore the rapid development of foundational technology concepts designed to move away from individual scientific efforts within isolated, self-sufficient systems and toward a series of shareable, scalable, resource-driven systems that interoperate – minimizing lunar footprint and creating monetizable services for future lunar users.

LunA-10 Topic Area 1 (TA-1) focuses on a portfolio of lunar providers and users who will, together, define a series of future integrated lunar frameworks that take advantage of commercial development and nongovernmental funding streams. Each integrated system design and framework will be backed by a quantitative analysis of needs, validated analysis for anticipated use case(s), concepts of operations, scaling analysis for foundational systems, and metrics for integrated system performance. Performers will identify current investments and future technical challenges toward achieving these goals.

Though building a lunar railroad might be something dreamed up in a science fiction story, it reportedly reflects the Department of Defense’s curious interest in lunar operations and its ambition of establishing a military presence on the Moon.

Northrop Grumman made the following statement about the project: “The envisioned lunar railroad network could transport humans, supplies, and resources for commercial ventures across the lunar surface – contributing to a space economy for the United States and international partners.”

Northrop Grumman was just one of 14 companies selected by DARPA in December 2023 to participate in the study, according to Space.com.

Michael Nayak — program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office — said: “A large paradigm shift is coming in the next 10 years for the lunar economy.”

“To get to a turning point faster, LunA-10 uniquely aims to identify solutions that can enable multi-mission lunar systems — imagine a wireless power station that can also provide comms and navigation in its beam,” Nayak said.

He went on to say that such a project will accelerate “key technologies that may be used by government and the commercial space industry, and ultimately to catalyze economic vibrancy on the moon.”

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