The much-hyped and much-talked about Bengaluru-based space tech startup TeamIndus, which was launching a mission to the moon in pursuit of the $30-million Google Lunar XPRIZE, seems to have hit a major roadblock. According to a report by The Ken, the launch contract that TeamIndus signed with Antrix Corporation, which the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in December 2016, has been cancelled.
Team Indus was the only Indian team among the five finalists competing for the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE and the deadline for the completion of the lunar mission is March 31, 2018.
Ken reports that with the contract for a chartered launch on ISRO’s rocket Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), being called off, ‘it’s virtually impossible for TeamIndus to secure another contract on any other rocket and launch before the deadline’.
This means that it is an end to the startup’s pursuit of the GLXP.
One of the main reasons for the downfall of TeamIndus pursuit has been a lack of funds. As per the guidelines of GLXP, of the total money that needed to be raised, a maximum of 10% could be raised from the government.
It was reported in October that TeamIndus was scouting for funds. "The total budget of the moon mission is about Rs 450 crore, out of which we have raised more than half (Rs 225 crore) and have spent. We're trying to accumulate the rest through sponsors and others interested in this mission," Team Indus Fleet Commander Rahul Narayan was quoted as saying.
Then were issues with procuring hardware. As per the Ken report, While a lot of critical hardware didn’t arrive for testing until late last year, some of them still haven’t arrived.
Management issues were an other reason. Ken reports that there were steady exits from the startup as salaries and payments became erratic. “The leadership team disintegrated on the issues of PR [public relations], funding and lack of technological progress,” Ken quotes a source as saying.
When contacted by The News Minute, TeamIndus declined to comment, neither confirming or declining the news.
Interestingly, TeamIndus had tied up with another GLXP finalist Team Hakuto from Japan to transport Hakuto’s rover as well as its own to the moon using its own spacecraft. What happens to this collaboration now is unknown.
However, its not just TeamIndus that is struggling. According to a report by Space.com, the team from Israel ‘SpaceII’ too, needed to raise $7.5 million by December 20, failing which, it would have to drop out of the challenge.
It now remains to be seen if failing to launch a moon mission as part of GLXP will mean the end of the road for TeamIndus, or the startup can salvage something to stay put and commercialize in the future.