Team Indus, the only Indian team competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE, wants to go beyond the challenge and emerge as India’s equivalent of SpaceX, US private space company, with an eye on additional fund-raising to the tune of $40 million in the next round.
With its lunar rover mission launch set for December aboard ISRO’s PSLV rocket, Team Indus wants to expand its operational capabilities in launching and managing communication satellites.
The $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE challenge is a global competition to inspire engineers and entrepreneurs to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration by a privately funded team. The team must successfully place a robot on the Moon that explores at least 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and images back to Earth.
Team Indus has already raised $20 million in its first round from the country’s top investors such as Ratan Tata, Nandan Nilekani, Sachin Bansal, Binny Bansal, Subrata Mitra and Shekhar Kirani. The next round of funding will be utilized for expansion of its North Bangalore facility to undertake more space launches, said Team Indus founder Rahul Narayan.
The upcoming mission will carry its rover and 11 other payloads from Japan, France and UAE in the moon-laning mission. The spacecraft is under development at National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) and the final assembly will be done at the Team Indus facility in North Bengaluru.
Elaborating on their moon landing mission, Narayan told TOI: “ISRO’s Chandrayaan 1 was an orbital mission, while our spacecraft has to land on the Moon.” The flight testing of the spacecraft and payloads will be done at ISRO’s facility, before the final launch, he said.
Since ISRO is planning to employ a private launch vehicle by 2020, Team Indus sees imense potential and emerge as the country’s top private spacecraft manufacturer. “We see ourselves augmenting ISRO’s capacities, not capabilities,” Narayan said.
Team Indus is among the five teams to have been awarded a combined $5.25 million in recognition of “key technological advancements toward their quest to land a private spacecraft on the surface of the moon,” said the Xprize Foundation. The successful landing will get the team the final prize amount of $15 million.
Peter Diamandis, Lunar XPRIZE founder, while announcing the prize, said:”It has been many decades since we explored the Moon from the lunar surface, and it could be another 6–8 years before any government returns. Even then, it will be at a large expense, and probably with little public involvement.”
While the ideas initially mooted by Peter Diamandis, NASA was facing budget constraints, he approached Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, at an X Prize Foundation fundraiser and they agreed to sponsor it, and raise the amount of the prize money to $30 million, including a second prize, besides some bonus prizes. However, it was brought down to $15 million later.