India’s first aerospace startup, and one of the five contenders of Google Lunar Xprize Competition, TeamIndus seems to have hit a major roadblock. As per reports, the startup’s contract with ISRO has been called off.
For the launch, TeamIndus had signed a contract with the commercial arm of ISRO, Antrix Corporation. When contacted by Inc42, TeamIndus didn’t comment on the development.
The final launch deadline had been set to March 31, 2018.
The five teams shortlisted for the final round are TeamIndus (India), Synergy Moon, Hakuto (Japan), SpaceIL (Israel), and Moon Express (USA). SpaceIL has signed a contract with SpaceFlight and intends to launch in 2018. However, it is still unclear, if it will be able to meet the deadline.
TeamIndus had not only signed a contract with ISRO but also with the Hakuto and the same PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) launched by ISRO was supposed to be a launch-vehicle for both teams.
With this, the Hakuto team’s project has also come to a halt. The two players that seem to be strong contenders in this moon race are Synergy Moon and Moon Express.
Google Lunar Xprize: Recap
Google Lunar Xprize competition aims to encourage private players to explore the space industry. The competition entails making a soft landing on the Moon surface, traversing 500 metres and sending high-quality images back to the Earth. Out of the 33 teams from 17 countries that applied for the $20 Mn grand prize, five teams had been shortlisted as the finalists by the Xprize judges.
TeamIndus has already been awarded $1 Mn for successfully demonstrating the soft landing milestone. However, the team had earlier failed to achieve the mobility milestone within the set time frame. At their Bengaluru headquarters, the team showcased mission readiness of the spacecraft, its operations and control, launch verification, soft landing, 500 meters mobility verification and mission complete mooncast milestones.
In 2010, when it enrolled for the competition, TeamIndus was a two-member team, with no prior aerospace technology experience. Now it has become a 120-member startup; having successfully raised over $35 Mn funding in three rounds. Prof. Alon Wells, Chairman of the Xprize Judges’ Panel who reviewed the TeamIndus preparations at its Bengaluru facility had said previously, “We took a detailed look at the mission plan and the methodologies being employed to gauge the progress of the Lunar Mission. We are completely satisfied with the readiness and transparency that TeamIndus showcased here. They are clearly on the right trajectory to make history.”
However, the ISRO contract-cancellation will derail the entire preparation of TeamIndus and its race to the Google Lunar Xprize championship.
Update 1: 9 January, 11 PM
The earlier version of the story had reported that SpaceIL has postponed their launch mission to 2019. This was based on an old report. However, the SpaceIL team has confirmed Inc42 that it intends to launch their satellite in 2018, after signing a contract with SpaceFlight.