Team Indus, the Bengaluru space startup that is aiming to send a lander and rover to the moon, has confirmed a slot on India's PSLV rocket for its mission in the last quarter of 2017.
The Indian team, backed by Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani, is among the three top contenders for the Google's Lunar XPRIZE competition, looking to win $30 million cheque for the first mission to land on the moon. In addition, the lunar rover has to travel 500 metres on the moon's surface while transmitting high resolution images to earth.
Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) will build an extended version of its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) to carry the lunar rover and lander to the moon. Antrix Corp, the commercial arm of Isro signed the deal with Team Indus, an Antrix official confirmed the development. Team Indus declined comment.
Isro had used the workhorse PSLV on its Chandrayaan-1 mission, when it sent a satellite that orbited the moon, besides crashing on its the earth's satellite to discover abundant water.
For the Team Indus mission, Isro plans to replicate the sling shot approach it took for Chandrayaan-1 to hurl the lunar lander and rover away from the earth's gravity and land on the moon's surface. Team Indus has identified Mare Imbrium, latin for Sea of Showers, a vast dusty area on the Moon to land the spacecraft just at the just at the break of the lunar dawn, to help make the most of the lunar day.
"We will hopefully be the first privately funded spacecraft to land on any extraterrestrial body. We are extremely proud because this entire design has been done indigenously. We've had a lot of consultants from international countries, we're also sourcing a lot of components internationally, but this is 100 per cent indigenously designed," said Rahul Narayan, co-founder at TeamIndus in June..
TeamIndus is in a race to beat Israeli team SpaceIL which has scheduled its launch for the second half of 2017. SpaceIL has secured its ticket to the moon aboard US-based private space firm SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket. In order to win the $30 million XPRIZE competition, a team has to land on the moon's surface and travel a distance of 500 metres whilst transmitting high-resolution images.