Astrobotic Pulls Out of Google Lunar X Prize

Peregrine lunar lander (Credit: Astrobotic)
Peregrine lunar lander (Credit: Astrobotic)

Astrobotic has pulled out of the Google Lunar X Prize, according to an update on the Space Angels Network website.

As a former XPRIZE contender, Astrobotic was the only team to win all three of the competition’s Milestone Prizes, which brought the company $1.75 million in prize money. Astrobotic is now poised for further success: Their Peregrine Lander will carry customer payloads to the Moon’s surface in 2019, including the rovers of three other GLXP competitors. These initial customers, who have had an opportunity to evaluate all potential service providers, have said that Astrobotic is “years ahead of the competition.”

This focus on the business model and securing customers, combined with their impressive technical progress, was one of the key factors that convinced Space Angels to invest in their venture. Astrobotic has also successfully secured a number of key partners including NASA, Airbus Defence and Space, DHL, and Aerojet Rocketdyne to bolster their effort to become the world’s first lunar payload delivery service. In short, Astrobotic is making all the right moves to position itself in order to succeed in, and drive the growth of, the emerging lunar economy.

The Space Angels Network said Astrobotic announced the decision to withdraw from the $30 million competition on Monday. There are no notices about a withdrawal on the company’s website or Twitter feed as yet.

The announcement came less than two weeks before a Dec. 31 deadline for teams to have verified launch contracts to continue in the competition. In order to win the prize, teams must launch their spacecraft by the end of 2017.

Astrobotic has agreements with two Google Lunar X Prize competitors — Team HAKUTO of Japan and Team AngelicvM of Chile — to carry their rovers to the surface. A third competitor, Puli Space of Hungary, has reserved space for a time capsule and has the option of adding its own rover to Astrobotic’s lander.

Unless these teams make alternative arrangements with competitors with verified launch contracts, Astrobotic’s 2019 launch date will put them out of competition.

To date, four teams have verified launch contracts for 2017: Moon Express of the United States, SpaceIL of Israel, Team Indus of India, and the international Synergy Moon team.

The Google Lunar X Prize is offering a $20 million first prize for the first privately built vehicle to travel at least 500 meters across the lunar surface and return high-definition video. There is a $5 million second prize.