The GLXP is Dead! Long Live the GLXP!

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

This past week, the XPrize acknowledged the obvious:  after 10 years and multiple deadline extensions, none of the five remaining teams was going to claim the Google Lunar X Prize by landing a privately-built vehicle on the moon that would travel 500 meters across the surface while sending back high-definition video.

The first team to accomplish that goal would have claimed $20 million; the second, $5 million. But, unlike the moon race of the 1960’s, Google’s much hyped moon shot ended not with the deafening roar of a launch but the deadening silence of a dream deferred.


GLXP Update: Parabolic Archers Called It!

Congratulations are in order for Parabolic Arc readers! Or at least the 59 percent of you who voted correctly in our latest poll.

That’s the percentage of voters who chose “None of the Above” on the question of  who would win the Google X Prize. And wouldn’t you know it, last week the X Prize announced that the prize was ending without any winner.

So, kudos to you guys. Each and everyone one of you are a regular Ed Glosser.

As for the rest of you losers….21 percent voted for Moon Express, 9 percent of Team Indus, and 3 percent for Synergy Moon.

I’ve put in a new poll up on what will happen to Jim Bridenstine’s nomination to lead NASA.

Remember: vote early. Vote often. Vote as if your life depended on it. Because it does.

Seriously. I’ll explain later.

Happy Tuesday, everybody!

GLXP News: TeamIndus Throws in the Towel on Prize, Promises New Direction

Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)

Statement from TeamIndus

“Antrix and TeamIndus are mutually terminating the launch services agreement signed in 2016. Antrix remains committed to encouraging and promoting private enterprise in space. TeamIndus will continue with its goal of building a world class private aerospace company. TeamIndus also thanks Antrix for its assistance and looks forward to collaborating with Antrix in the future to take India higher and further into space. Antrix takes this opportunity to wish TeamIndus all success in its future endeavours.”

“TeamIndus has been in talks with the Google Lunar XPrize over the past few weeks and had expressed its inability to meet the 31st March 2018 deadline to complete 500 meter traversal on the Moon. We respect the decision by the organizers to not extend the competition deadline any further and thank them for having created an unique platform that unleashed innovation, created newer technologies and drew in teams from various backgrounds to solve problems of enabling human exploration beyond the Earth orbit.

We have formally, amicably and mutually closed our Launch services agreement with Antrix. We continue to look towards Antrix & ISRO as our preferred partners of choice for all our future endeavours.

At TeamIndus, we are grateful for the support we have received from all our partners, supporters over this journey of 7 years. We are working closely with all of them to ascertain their role as we expand our horizons and work on repeatedly delivering increased capacity, precision of payload to the Moon. More details on our next phase of evolution coming up later this week.”

Editor’s Note: Indian media reports indicate that Anxtrix terminated the agreement because it hadn’t been paid. Perhaps those reports were incorrect. Or everyone is trying to save face. In any event, TeamIndus did not have the money or the time to finish the lander and rover before the prize ended.

You know who does have that kind of money, though? Ispace, the Japanese company backing Team HAKUTO, whose rover was going to catch a ride with Team Indus. It just raised $90.2 million in Series A funding to support lunar missions.

TeamIndus says its making an announcement on Thursday about some new direction, known in tech circles as a pivot. I would not be surprised if it’s a partnership with HAKUTO. But, that’s just a guess. I don’t have any inside information concerning their plans.

Is the Google Lunar X Prize Kaput?

Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)

It appears highly likely that the decade-old Google Lunar X Prize will end on March 31 without a winner following reports out of India that Team Indus has pulled out of the race. The Ken reports that

The launch contract that TeamIndus signed with Antrix Corporation—the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro)—in December 2016, in pursuit of its $30-million Google Lunar XPRIZE goal, has been cancelled. Multiple sources within Isro confirmed the news….

Conservatively speaking, the price tag for the PSLV chartered launch alone is said to be upwards of $20 million; the cost of building and testing the moon rover is several million more. It’s learnt TeamIndus couldn’t pony up funds to pay Antrix beyond the initial signing amount. “Isro has cancelled the contract for a lack of compliances and payment issues,” says a person who is close to these developments. He says, “Rahul [Narayan, co-founder TeamIndus] has spoken to all on the floor recently and informed all of Isro’s decision of pulling out of the mission”. TeamIndus did not respond to questions sent by email. Without denying the news, a spokesperson for the company said, “As a company, we’d not comment on this”.


Time Running Out to Win Google Lunar X Prize

Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The clock is ticking for the remaining teams in the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize competition.

Barring another extension, they have until March 31 to land a vehicle on moon and travel 500 meters across it to claim the $20 million first prize or $5 million second prize. It’s not clear whether any of them will make the deadline.


ispace Raises $90.2 Million Series A, Plans Two Lunar Missions by 2020

Credit: ispace

TOKYO, December 13th, 2017 (ispace PR) — ispace, a Japan-based private lunar exploration company, announced today that it has raised $90.2 million* in Series A funding—not only the largest-ever Series A raised in Japan, but also the largest to date in the global commercial space sector (as of Dec. 13th, 2017).

The financing will be used to develop a lunar lander and conduct two lunar missions by the end of 2020. The funding was joined by Innovation Network Corporation of Japan; Development Bank of Japan; Tokyo Broadcasting System; Konika Minolta; Shimizu; Suzuki Motor; SPARX; Dentsu; Real Tech Fund; KDDI; Japan Airlines; and Toppan Printing.


ispace to Announce Major Series A Investment Round

TOKYO — ispace, a Japanese start-up responsible for Team HAKUTO’s entry in the Google Lunar X Prize, is planning to announce “the largest fund raised in Series A in the global space industry” next week to support its efforts to mine the moon.

“It involves a round of significant financing and details around the next missions of ispace, planned after the currently run HAKUTO project,” according to an invitation sent to journalists.


Team Indus Tries to Crowd Fund $35 Million to Win Moon Race

Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)

Team Indus is still $35 million short of being able to launch a rover to the moon to win first prize in the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize with less than four months to go.

Team Indus, a private aerospace start-up, and the only Indian team attempting to launch a spacecraft on the moon, is exploring crowd funding, sponsorship and ticketing route as possible fund raising options.

The start-up which has, so far, raised $35 million (approximately ₹250 crore), has to raise the other half of $35 million within a revised deadline of March 2018. The project is estimated to cost close to $ 65-70 million (approximately ₹ 500 crore).

According to Sheelika Ravishankar, Marketing and Outreach, Team Indus, the company would launch a platform (for crowd funding) in the next couple of weeks inviting people to contribute towards its ‘Moon Mission’.

Team Indus needs to launch its lander and rover by early March to win the prize by the end of that month. Team HAKUTO is also scheduled to fly its rover on the same mission, which is scheduled to launch on an Indian PSLV booster.


Google Lunar X Prize Extends Deadline Again

LOS ANGELES, August 16, 2017 (XPRIZE PR) – Today, XPRIZE and Google announce that $4.75M in additional Milestone Prize money will be available to Google Lunar XPRIZE finalist teams for achieving technological milestones along the way to the Moon.

Additionally, XPRIZE established a mission completion deadline of March 31, 2018, regardless of the initiation date, in order for teams to win the Grand or Second-Place Prizes.


Potential Snag for Team Indus Bid to Win Google Lunar X Prize

Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)

There are some potential snags for Team Indus and Team HAKUTO in their efforts to win the Google Lunar X Prize.

Team Indus and a Japanese team, Hakuto, are contracted to fly on ISRO’s PSLV XL rocket on December 28, 2017, three days before the closure of the deadline for the Google X Prize contest. The two teams will share the nearly $30 million commercial cost for the launch.

“The necessary approvals for launch of the Team Indus moon mission has not yet concluded. An MoU was signed last year by Antrix Corporation and Team Indus. The launch service has to be authorised by the government and the approval process is going on,” Antrix chairman and managing director Rakesh Sasibhushan said. Sources in ISRO said the MoU is under scrutiny and various questions are being asked about the nature of the launch, the Google Lunar X Prize competition and intellectual property issues involved.

“We have not heard of any questions being raised by the government. We have a launch contract that was signed last year,’’ Team Indus leader Rahul Narayan said when contacted. A private company, Axiom Research Labs Ltd, is the start-up that created Team Indus.

The mission is expected to cost Team Indus in the range of $70 million to build its moon rover and spacecraft from scratch and to launch it to the moon. The venture has received the backing of the likes of Ratan Tata, Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani, Flipkart founders Sachin and Binny Bansal, TVS Group’s Venu Srinivasan, stock market investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala and many tech sector start-up investors.

There are still a lot of questions about Team Indus. Is the hardware ready? Do the full amount to pay for the mission? Can they really rely on ISRO to launch on time given the many delays in the agency’s schedule?

And here’s one for the Google Lunar X Prize: how does a MoU counts as a verified launch contract? Were you guys accepting anything to keep the prize alive?


The Year Ahead in Space

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)
Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.

A New Direction for NASA?

NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.

Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.


GLXP Update: Team Hakuto Rover to Hitch Ride on Team Indus Lander

Moonraker during its field test (Credit: HAKUTO)
Moonraker during its field test (Credit: HAKUTO)

Team Hakuto of Japan has announced plans to place its lunar rover aboard a landing craft being launched to the moon by Google Lunar X Prize rival Team Indus of India.

The announcement comes as U.S.-based Astrobotic announced it was withdrawing from the $30 million competition to land the first private rover on the moon. Team Hakuto was one of three teams planning to launch payloads to the moon next year aboard Astrobotic’s spacecraft.

Astrobotic now plans to launch its rover to the moon in 2019 with a second rover from Team Hakuto aboard. That flight will be too late to win the Google Lunar X Prize, which requires teams to launch their rovers by the end of 2017.

The competition has a $20 million prize for the first privately built rover to travel 500 meters across the surface and transmit high-definition video. There also is a $5 million second prize.

Astrobotic Pulls Out of Google Lunar X Prize

Peregrine lunar lander (Credit: Astrobotic)
Peregrine lunar lander (Credit: Astrobotic)

Astrobotic has pulled out of the Google Lunar X Prize, according to an update on the Space Angels Network website.

As a former XPRIZE contender, Astrobotic was the only team to win all three of the competition’s Milestone Prizes, which brought the company $1.75 million in prize money. Astrobotic is now poised for further success: Their Peregrine Lander will carry customer payloads to the Moon’s surface in 2019, including the rovers of three other GLXP competitors. These initial customers, who have had an opportunity to evaluate all potential service providers, have said that Astrobotic is “years ahead of the competition.”

Private Lunar Exploration Company ispace Collaborates With JAXA on Lunar Resource Development Initiative

TOKYO (ispace PR) — ispace, inc, a private lunar robotic exploration company, announced today that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to jointly create a roadmap for lunar resource development. Under this agreement, both parties will utilize their knowledge and network to develop plans and frameworks for creating an industry around lunar resource mining, delivery and utilization.