The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has enlisted the expertise of 14 visionary companies for its 10-Year Lunar Architecture (LunA-10) Capability Study.
The dawn of a new era in lunar exploration is on the horizon, and it promises a revolutionary shift from isolated systems to an integrated framework that fosters commercial activity on the Moon. This initiative aims to propel the establishment of a civil lunar framework for both U.S. and international utilization, setting the stage for a prosperous lunar economy within the next decade.
DARPA has selected the following companies for LunA-10: Blue Origin, CisLunar Industries, Crescent Space Services LLC, Fibertek, Inc., Firefly Aerospace, GITAI, Helios, Honeybee Robotics, ICON, Nokia of America, Northrop Grumman, Redwire Corporation, Sierra Space, SpaceX.
LunA-10 as pivotal shift moment
Dr. Michael “Orbit” Nayak, program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office, expressed the transformative potential of LunA-10, stating, “LunA-10 has the potential to upend how the civil space community thinks about spurring widespread commercial activity on and around the Moon within the next 10 years.”
The selected companies, a mix of domestic and international entities, bring diverse visions and technically rigorous plans to the table, all centered around the common goal of creating a self-sustaining, monetizable, commercially owned-and-operated lunar infrastructure.
DARPA, with its impressive 65-year legacy in advancing space technology research and development (R&D), has played pivotal roles in historical milestones, including the Saturn V rocket technology that transported humans to the Moon for the first time. The LunA-10 study seeks to continue this tradition by de-risking technologies crucial to civil space, emphasizing U.S. space leadership.
The selected companies will collaborate over a seven-month study period, focusing on designing integrated system-level solutions spanning key lunar services. The diverse range of services includes lunar power, mining, and commercial in-situ resource utilization, communications, navigation, and timing, transit, mobility, and logistics, as well as construction and robotics.
Among the chosen companies are industry giants such as SpaceX and Northrop Grumman, along with innovative players like GITAI and Helios. Each company is poised to contribute its unique expertise to this collective effort.
However, LunA-10 will not fund technology construction, lunar surface transportation, or integration with lunar delivery vehicles, and it is not intended to support human exploration or scientific experimentation without commercial value.
Contributions that we know
Redwire Corporation, one of the selected companies, will focus on providing critical services to lunar assets from cislunar space, emphasizing high-speed communications and Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT). CisLunar Industries, in collaboration with industry experts, aims to bring terrestrial mining and extraction knowledge to complement its expertise.
Firefly Aerospace, another participant, plans to contribute a framework for an aggregated hub of on-orbit spacecraft, offering on-demand services to both visiting and dispersed spacecraft across cislunar space. Meanwhile, Sierra Space aims to integrate oxygen extraction, electrical storage, and hydrogen-oxygen engine technology into a commercial lunar infrastructure concept, ultimately optimizing lunar architecture and fostering a vibrant translunar economy.
While the contributions of other companies remain undisclosed at this time, the entire consortium is set to openly brief their work at the Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium (LSIC) Spring Meeting in April 2024. The final report on the LunA-10 study is expected to be shared with the lunar community in June 2024.
The collaboration between government agencies and private entities paves the way for a spacefaring future where the Moon becomes a hub for thriving commercial activities.