TeamIndus, which was to send India's first private commercial moon rover mission, is reported to have abandoned the project because of lack funds. Sources say the Bengaluru-based start-up could not mobilise the Rs200 crore needed to hire a dedicated polar satellite launch vehicle for the mission.
A report in the Business Standard quoting sources at the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) said TeamIndus and Isro have called off their GLXP launch contract and that it was confirmed by sources in Isro and among industry members.
The cancellation of the TeamIndus Moonshot mission could jeopardise the startup's path-breaking effort that could have made it the first private Indian startup to land a rover on the moon.
TeamIndus's lunar rover project was part of Google Lunar XPRIZE, a competition aimed at inspiring engineers and innovators to come up with low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. To win the competition, the team needs to successfully place a space probe on the moon's surface, make it travel at least 500 meters and then transmit HD video and images back to Earth.
The winner will get $20 million, while the second placed team will receive $5 million.
TeamIndus is India's first private aerospace startup and also a participant in the Lunar XPRIZE.
Isro officials have confirmed the development and said the contract is in limbo because the mission could not mobilise funds.
TeamIndus had signed the contract with Antrix Corporation Limited, the commercial arm of Isro, to launch an indigenously built and privately funded moon rover onboard Isro's PSLV launch vehicle.
Part of Google Lunar X, The Moonshot mission aimed at sending a rover to the surface of the moon, take high-definition videos and images and send them back to earth. The launch was initially scheduled for December 2017 but had been postponed to March.
TeamIndus was one of the five finalists and the only Indian team competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP).
With a 31 March 2018 deadline for the launch of the lunar mission, there is little chance that the mission could be carried out under the present contract.
The total cost of the mission was estimated to be Rs450 crore, of which TeamIndus managed to raise about Rs225 crore – more than half – and was to secure the rest by March 2018.