BENGALURU: TeamIndus, a private company that hoped to reach the moon by December 31 this year, has hit a roadblock. This is because ISRO’s commercial arm, Antrix Corporation, which was to launch its robotic rover, has cancelled it due to a series of delayed and pending payments.
Now, with the deadline of March 31 staring at them, TeamIndus is left with neither a launcher nor the funds. The company is unable to meet the programme cost of `450 crore (about $70 million).
TeamIndus Fleet Commander Rahul Narayan had earlier said the launch date has to be notified to Lunar XPrize at least six weeks ahead of the fixed launch date.
Now with ISRO backing out, TeamIndus not only has to look for an alternative space agency to launch its robotic rover -- named ECA Rover (ECA, standing for Ek Choti Asha) -- but also raise more funds than what they had agreed to pay ISRO, which was over Rs 130 crore.
According to the contract, ISRO’s workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) was to be used to launch TeamIndus’ ECA Rover and spacecraft for the moon mission.
TeamIndus had planned a mission phased over 24 days with 10 days in orbit and 14 days spent on the moon. En route, the spacecraft would hit a maximum speed of 10.5 km per second and decelerate to soft-land on Mare Imbrium, a vast lava plain on the moon.
Besides this, there is the crucial component of the competition of traversing the robotic rover over 500 metres on the lunar surface and send back data to earth.
All this had to be completed before March 31 -- which means, the mission launch should have taken place in the early March. However, the latest developments leave no time to scout for an alternative space agency to launch the mission, or to raise higher funds to meet the costs.
Several attempts at contacting Rahul Narayan or other members of TeamIndus were unsuccessful.
Biocon chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw in a tweet said: “Team Indus, The First Indian Space Start-Up, Drops Out Of Moon Race - most unfortunate but they say they will still try to reach out to launchers outside the country as a last effort…”