India's 1st private moon mission in jeopardy

India's 1st private moon mission in jeopardy

India's 1st private moon mission in jeopardy

India's first private commercial moon mission, scheduled for launch by a Bengaluru-based space tech startup, TeamIndus,  has reportedly run into rough weather. The mission itself is now said to have been called off due to a  paucity of funds.  

In pursuit of the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP), TeamIndus had signed a contract with Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), in December 2016. Reports indicate this contract has been cancelled, although there is no official confirmation.

Of the five finalists in the  competition for the prize, TeamIndus was the only Indian team. The deadline to complete the lunar mission was fixed on March 31, 2018. Business website the-ken.com reported that the contract was for a chartered launch on ISRO's rocket, Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

The portal's report also stated that it would be virtually impossible for TeamIndus to secure another contract on any other rocket to complete the launch process before the scheduled deadlines.

The total budget of the moon mission is said to be about Rs 450 crore. However, only about Rs 225 crore was raised. Efforts were on to raise the remaining amount through sponsors. Hardware procurement was another issue.

As part of the GLXP challenge, a rover had to be put on the moon surface before travelling 500 metres to beam back high definition video footages to earth. ISRO sources indicated that the space organisation was ready to provide the rocket. But problems arose due to issues with contractual requirements and timely instalment payments.

Initially, 33 teams had entered the GLXP contest before the number was filtered to five including TeamIndus. Last year, this team had won the $1 million Milestone prize for landing technology.

Besides TeamIndus, Israeli non-profit firm SpaceIL, Japanese space robotics expert Hakuto, American firm Moon Express and Synergy Moon, an international collaboration of space enthusiasts, were also in the race.

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