Spaceflight Insider

Team Indus joins Google Lunar X-Prize finalists, Astrobotic drops out

An artist's impression of a Google Lunar X-Prize team at an Apollo landing site. To win the $20 million prize, finalist teams have to launch by the end of 2017. Image Credit: GLXP

An artist’s impression of a Google Lunar X-Prize rover at an Apollo landing site. To win the $20 million prize, finalist teams have to launch by the end of 2017. Image Credit: GLXP

One of the prerequisites of staying in the Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP) is securing a contract with a launch service provider. India-based Team Indus has successfully done that by contracting with the manufacturer of the country’s PSLV rocket. At the same time, Astrobotic, the first team to secure a contract back in 2011, announced that it is dropping out of the competition after losing its launch window with SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

Astrobotic was quoted in Space News Magazine stating that the team doesn’t plan to rush into another launch opportunity and it would fly when ready. It is currently targeting a launch date sometime in 2019.

GLXP is a competition, started in 2007, to spur private development of low-cost spacecraft and launch systems to land robotic spacecraft on the Moon, travel 1,640 feet (500 meters), and transmit high-definition video and images back to Earth. Sixteen teams are competing as part of GLXP. First prize is $20 million. Second prize is $5 million.

In order to win the competition, teams must also gain 90 percent of their mission’s cost from private funding. As mentioned, GLXP teams have until the end of 2016 to announce a verified launch contract and until the end of 2017 to launch their mission.

Artist's depiction of Team Indus rover on the surface of the Moon. Image Credit: Team Indus

Artist’s depiction of the Team Indus rover on the surface of the Moon. Image Credit: Team Indus

So far, four teams have verified launch contracts: Israel’s SpaceIL, the U.S.’ Moon Express, the international team Synergy Moon, and India’s Team Indus.

Aside from those and U.S.-based Astrobotic, the other teams are Italy’s Team Italia, the international team Stellar, Malaysia’s Independence X, the U.S.’ Omega Envoy, the international team Euroluna, Germany’s Part-Time Scientists, Hungary’s Team Puli, Brazil’s Space Meta, Chile’s Angelicvm, and Japan’s Hakuto.

Team Hakuto had actually partnered with Astrobotic to land its rover on the surface of the Moon. However, as Astrobotic was no longer planning on staying in the GLXP competition, it decided to partner with Team Indus. The agreement has been verified by the XPRIZE foundation.

Team Indus has set itself the goal is to plant the Indian flag on the surface of the Moon on Jan. 26, 2018, which is the nation’s Republic Day.

“A dedicated PSLV for Team Indus is testimony to the progressive policies adopted by the Department of Space and Technology preparedness of the engineering team,” said Rahul Narayan, Team Indus Fleet Commander, in The Indian Express. “For Team Indus this was a critical step in realizing our objective of creating the most inclusive space program to date. As part of our #HarIndianKaMoonshot program[,] we are delighted to invite young engineers and aspiring scientists to create an experiment that will fly on board our Moon mission.”

The first company to gain regulatory approval – as required by the 1967 Outer Space Treaty – to go to the Moon was Moon Express.

“The Moon Express 2017 mission approval is a landmark decision by the U.S. government and a pathfinder for private sector commercial missions beyond the Earth’s orbit,” said Bob Richards, Moon Express’ co-founder and CEO said. “We are now free to set sail as explorers to Earth’s eighth continent, the Moon, seeking new knowledge and resources to expand Earth’s economic sphere for the benefit of all humanity.”

SpaceIL plans to use GLXP as a jumping-off point to educate the public about science and technology. Israel faces a shortage of scientists and engineers, and SpaceIL hopes to create what they call an “Apollo effect”.

Synergy Moon, meanwhile, is composed of space enthusiasts, engineers, filmmakers, and artists who plan to use a Neptune 8 rocket, built by Interorbital Systems, to carry their lunar lander and at least one rover.

For officials with GLXP, these and other milestones serve as a touchstone proving the effort’s worth.

“In the spirit of X-Prize’s belief that the power of competition can spur outside-the-box innovation, Synergy Moon has blazed their own path and demonstrated that there is more than one way to get to the Moon,” Chandra Gonzalez-Mowrer, senior director of the GLXP said, noting the importance of Synergy Moon’s launch agreement.

 

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Collin R. Skocik has been captivated by space flight since the maiden flight of space shuttle Columbia in April of 1981. He frequently attends events hosted by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, and has met many astronauts in his experiences at Kennedy Space Center. He is a prolific author of science fiction as well as science and space-related articles. In addition to the Voyage Into the Unknown series, he has also written the short story collection The Future Lives!, the science fiction novel Dreams of the Stars, and the disaster novel The Sunburst Fire. His first print sale was Asteroid Eternia in Encounters magazine. When he is not writing, he provides closed-captioning for the hearing impaired. He lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida.

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