Bengaluru start-up’s moonshot mission in jeopardy after ISRO cancels contract
The Moonshot mission is part of Google Lunar X challenge aimed at placing a rover on the moon’s surface and taking HD images.science Updated: Jan 09, 2018 14:36 IST
The Moonshot mission of Team Indus, India’s first privately funded start-up, has hit a major roadblock after ISRO cancelled the contract because the company could not raise sufficient funds, according to The Ken.
The Moonshot mission is part of Google Lunar X challenge aimed at placing a rover on the moon’s surface and taking HD images. The launch was scheduled for December 2017 but was postponed to March.
The contract was signed with ISRO’s commercial arm, Antrix Corporation Limited, to launch the indigenously developed and privately-funded lunar rover onboard ISRO’s PSLV launch vehicle.
“They did not have the money, they were almost bankrupt,” an ISRO official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said. The contract was cancelled in December, according to ISRO officials.
The total cost of the mission was estimated a $ 65-70 million, of which the start-up had raised about $35 million (approximately ₹250 crore), and was to raise the remaining amount by March 2018.
The company also had a “rideshare” agreement with Japanese space startup to carry a four-kg robotic rover on its 600-kg spacecraft.
The Team Indus moon mission is potentially groundbreaking. If it is successful it will become the first private Indian startup to land a craft on the moon. They are one of the 5 finalists in Google’s Lunar X challenge, which requires teams to land a spacecraft on the moon and guide it for 500 metres, all the while transmitting high definition video and images to earth. The teams are competing for prizes worth US$30 million.
The Indian space agency has been aggressively wooing India’s private sector to take part in space operations.
“Today we have about 500 industries contributing to space activities in the country. The PSLV is gearing up for end to end realization through industry, so also the satellite integration and manufacturing.’” Kiran Kumar, chairman of ISRO, said at a seminar earlier this year.
“ISRO alone cannot do it, that is why the industry is invited.Technology and industry partners, the ecosystem is ripe for that,” Dr M Annadurai, director, Information Sharing and Analysis Center, Bangalore,said.
Team Indus officials said they did not want to comment on the issue at present.
(This story has been updated for proper attribution.)