India’s first private commercial moon mission called off by ISRO arm Antrix

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New Delhi | Published: January 25, 2018 10:27:58 AM

Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), on Wednesday (January 24), announced that its launch service agreement with Bengaluru-based tech startup TeamIndus has been mutually terminated.

Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), on Wednesday (January 24), announced that its launch service agreement with Bengaluru-based tech startup TeamIndus has been mutually terminated.

Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), on Wednesday (January 24), announced that its launch service agreement with Bengaluru-based tech startup TeamIndus has been mutually terminated. The contract to fly India’s first-ever private space mission to the moon on the PSLV rocket of the Indian Space Research Organisation was a part of the Google Lunar XPrize contest. In pursuit of the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP) to soft-land on the moon and send images back to earth, TeamIndus had signed a contract with Antrix in December 2016. Of the five finalists in the competition, TeamIndus was the only Indian team. The mission had to be completed by March 31, 2018.

Neither Antrix nor TeamIndus have specified the reasons for the termination of the contract. However, the media reports suggest the inability of TeamIndus to raise the required funds as the main reason for the termination of the deal. However, an official release from Antrix did not cite any such reason while wishing TeamIndus “all success in its future endeavors.” There was no official word from TeamIndus.

The cancellation effectively ends the participation of TeamIndus in the Google Lunar XPrize contest. Though Antrix and TeamIndus never spelled it out officially, reports of the contract being in danger have been circulating for over six months. In an interview to The Indian Express in July last, Rahul Narayan, the leader of TeamIndus, had expressed hope of fighting his way through the situation, which he put down essentially to the raising of funds for payments to ISRO for the launch. Notably, TeamIndus has been backed by the likes of entrepreneur Ratan Tata, technocrats such as former ISRO chairman K Kasturirangan, and Infosys Ltd’s Nandan Nilekani.

The Google Lunar XPrize for the first private mission to the moon offers $20 million to the winners who land a rover on the moon and get it to travel a distance of 500 metres.

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