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Potential Snag for Team Indus Bid to Win Google Lunar X Prize

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
June 21, 2017
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Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)

There are some potential snags for Team Indus and Team HAKUTO in their efforts to win the Google Lunar X Prize.

Team Indus and a Japanese team, Hakuto, are contracted to fly on ISRO’s PSLV XL rocket on December 28, 2017, three days before the closure of the deadline for the Google X Prize contest. The two teams will share the nearly $30 million commercial cost for the launch.

“The necessary approvals for launch of the Team Indus moon mission has not yet concluded. An MoU was signed last year by Antrix Corporation and Team Indus. The launch service has to be authorised by the government and the approval process is going on,” Antrix chairman and managing director Rakesh Sasibhushan said. Sources in ISRO said the MoU is under scrutiny and various questions are being asked about the nature of the launch, the Google Lunar X Prize competition and intellectual property issues involved.

“We have not heard of any questions being raised by the government. We have a launch contract that was signed last year,’’ Team Indus leader Rahul Narayan said when contacted. A private company, Axiom Research Labs Ltd, is the start-up that created Team Indus.

The mission is expected to cost Team Indus in the range of $70 million to build its moon rover and spacecraft from scratch and to launch it to the moon. The venture has received the backing of the likes of Ratan Tata, Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani, Flipkart founders Sachin and Binny Bansal, TVS Group’s Venu Srinivasan, stock market investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala and many tech sector start-up investors.

There are still a lot of questions about Team Indus. Is the hardware ready? Do the full amount to pay for the mission? Can they really rely on ISRO to launch on time given the many delays in the agency’s schedule?

And here’s one for the Google Lunar X Prize: how does a MoU counts as a verified launch contract? Were you guys accepting anything to keep the prize alive?


10 responses to “Potential Snag for Team Indus Bid to Win Google Lunar X Prize”

  1. JamesG says:

    “Were you guys accepting anything to keep the prize alive?”

    Of course. At this point they will probably accept someone’s word on the phone or scribbles on a napkin.

    But of course the real problem is the ridiculously small prize, being offered by one of the most wealthy corporations on the planet. If not even the Indians can do it (most likely) for $70M, then no one else has a realistic chance (no not Moon Express) either. They need to step up or just end this fool’s errand.

    • Douglas Messier says:

      An X Prize spokesperson said they didn’t accept a MOU with Team Indus. So I don’t know what’s going on here.

    • windbourne says:

      yeah, it is not as though it is in boeings or l-marts interest to help fund this and perhaps get more launches for ULA.

    • ThomasLMatula says:

      I suspect that prize amount came about because Google at the time was looking at funding the International Lunar Observatory at $50 million. I could see Peter saying, I could do a lot more for you with half that money as part of his sales pitch…

      Of course what he did do is cost Google the glory of being the third entity that landed on the Moon, and all the PR the live images from the ILO would have bought them over the last decade or so… Not to mention the global STEM program that could have been built around the ILO that is missing from the Google Lunar X-Prize.

      But on the good side, the X-Prize Foundation has received a continuous flow of money from Google to administer the prize 🙂

      • JamesG says:

        Small change to Google. The adminstriation costs for the GLXP isn’t even their accounting rounding error. Much like Virgin Galactic, its mostly an publicity exercise for them instead of a serious venture.

    • IamGrimalkin says:

      But team Indus in some way is more ambitious than some other teams. They have to build a lander and a rover, SpaceIL and Moon Express exploited a loophole in the rules to just build a lander which can take off again. Also, probably good amount of that now $80bn is paying for the PSLV launch, but moon express for example flies on a cheaper launcher (which in the past had doubts if it would happen, but the almost-orbit test this year means things look a lot more hopeful).

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