Golden Spike Company
Gerald D. Griffin
The Golden Spike Company is an American space transport startup company chartered for business in Colorado with the objective to offer private commercial space transportation services to the surface of the Moon. The name of the company is in reference to the ceremonial final spike placed in the First Transcontinental Railroad upon its completion.
Golden Spike was founded by Alan Stern, NASA's associate administrator for science in 2007-2008, and Gerry Griffin, former NASA Johnson Space Center Director, is the Chairman of the Board. Additional members of the board of directors include space entrepreneur Esther Dyson, and Taber MacCallum,co-founder and CEO of Paragon Space Development Corp. Other advisers include former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, former NASA Space Shuttle manager Wayne Hale, author and aeronautical engineer Homer Hickam, and former governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson.
The first mention of a concept related to the name of this company and involving people associated with the company was at a conference in Hawaii on May, 2012 where it was suggested that "A privately circulated proposal, known as 'Golden Spike' and backed by respected scientific and astronautical entities, envisions the development of a reliable 'Cislunar Superhighway'." The company was formally announced at a press conference held on December 6, 2012 at the National Press Club, when details of the company and its ambitions were presented.
The last human to walk on the moon was U.S astronaut Gene Cernan, commander of the Apollo 17 mission that blasted off from Kennedy Space Center 40 years ago and, since then, there have been various missions to the Moon; but no manned visits. Golden Spike is planning to change that, and this venture should also be seen in the context of a growing cluster of stated intentions by various nations and private organizations to return to the moon.
Plans and resources
Company President/CEO Alan Stern has announced in briefing papers that the company had commenced feasibility studies into commercial missions to the Moon from early 2010 and formed the company in the third quarter of that year. Since then, the company has been building its business models and soliciting investment. Currently, the company has budgeted between $7 and $8 billion to achieve their objective, followed by around $1.5 billion fee per each "two-human lunar surface mission". Golden Spike will follow a model like that of the Russian spaceflight industry in the 1980s and '90s. The company said it can cut costs by partnering with other aerospace companies and using existing rockets or rockets already in development, needing to only build a lunar lander and a specialized spacesuit for astronauts for the moon. Stern says they expect to sign up as many as 15 to 20 countries or foreign space agencies as well as companies and individuals who want to explore the moon for science or adventure. They have identified a mission profile, including various launch options as well as trajectory and spacecraft for landing on the Moon. It involves two sets of two launches from Earth to Earth orbit: one set for the lander and the propulsion unit to send it to Moon orbit, and the other set for the crew vehicle and the propulsion unit to send it to Moon orbit. The two propusion units are disposed of. In Moon orbit the lander and the crew vehicle have a rendez-vous, and the crew move to the lander. They land and return to the crew vehicle, and return to Earth in the crew vehicle.
In January 2013, Golden Spike contracted with Northrop Grumman for the design of a new lunar lander, as one component of their "head start" commercial lunar architecture. Contracted tasks include "reviewing requirements and synthesizing a set of study ground rules and assumptions emphasizing system reliability, automated/ground command operability, and affordability, establishing velocity (Δv) budgets from and to low lunar orbit for pragmatic lunar landing sites, exploring a wide variety of Lunar Lander concept options, including staging, propellants, engines, reusability, autonomy, systems capabilities for exploration, as well as landing site flexibility, and establishing the design trade space and pragmatic limits for future more detailed analysis and development."
Board of directors
Board of directors
Board of advisors
Scientific American wrote that "Golden Spike's plans rank among the most audacious privately funded space exploration missions ever proposed." Former director of NASA Johnson Space Center says "If NASA wants a ride, we'd be glad to put them on our railroad". NASA was supportive of the effort, and said it showed the merits of supporting commercial spaceflight.
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