Northrop and DARPA are developing a lunar “railroad” concept for logistics on the satellite


The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working with Northrop Grumman on a concept for a rail network on the Moon.

Northrop released a statement this week:

The proposed lunar rail network could transport people, supplies and resources for commercial enterprises across the lunar surface, boosting the space economy for the United States and international partners.

The company’s work will focus on identifying the interfaces, resources and funding needed to create such a network, as well as the technological and logistical risks. Northrop will also propose prototypes of a lunar rail system and study how such a system could be built and operated.

This task is part of DARPA’s Lunar Architecture Study, or LunA-10. The seven-month study will not fund construction or hardware development, but instead aims to identify technologies that are fundamental to the development of future infrastructure on the Moon.

Northrop was one of 14 companies selected by DARPA in December to explore concepts for supporting a future lunar economy by 2035. The main areas of this research are energy production, lunar mining and resource utilization, navigation, mobility and logistics. Selected companies include launch service providers, startups, prime defense contractors and technology companies. DARPA did not say how much money was spent on all this.

The research comes as the US, its international partners and commercial firms plan future activities around and on the moon. In recent years, DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory have launched several programs to study logistics and satellite sensing in the lunar environment.

The Space Force’s interest in the military benefits of operations around the Moon is also growing. In February, the Space Force announced plans to create a Space Futures Command that would validate advanced concepts and new missions.