There has been an unprecedented tie-up between two rival private space novices — both competing to land on Moon. TeamIndus of Bengaluru and Hakuto, the team of Japanaese startup ispace Inc., have signed a ‘rideshare’ agreement. While TeamIndus’s spacecraft will be launched on ISRO’s PSLV rocket on December 28, 2017, Hakuto’s 4 kg robotic rover will be carried on Team Indus’s 600 kg spacecraft.
TeamIndus said “the commercial agreement is a first-of-its-kind collaboration of two private space enterprises competing in the Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP).”
Rahul Narayan, Fleet Commander of TeamIndus, said the two teams would start working together in the next few months.
Mr. Narayan and Sridhar Ramasubban, TeamIndus Jedi Master-International Sales, said the two teams were in discussion for many months and the contract was signed in late November in Bengaluru after TeamIndus sealed its own launch contract with ISRO arm, Antrix Corporation. Comparing with NASA’s twin Mars rovers, Spirit & Opportunity that were sent in 2003, Mr. Narayan said this partnership is unique as the rovers are being built in two countries. “Post-landing, they will, sort of, be ‘racing’ each other [and] should make for great STEM-Space outreach.” (STEM is acronym for science, technology, engineering, and maths.)
Mr. Ramasubban said, “The tie-up with Hakuto helps only to a small extent with TeamIndus’s launch costs. We see this more as collaborative than competitive, and expect this to make for great viewership.”
The GLXP announced in 2007 encourages private-funded entities to land on the Moon and rove on its surface for at least half a kilometre. All the teams must launch their spacecraft by December 31, 2017.