TeamIndus, the next phase

We continue going Moonwards. Always.

Much has been said about TeamIndus in the media in the past couple of weeks. Many of you wrote in with messages of support. For that, we’d like to thank you and let you know that we are not going to let your belief in us or our faith to deliver state-of-the-art outcomes go futile.

Through this blog post we would like to share a bit of our journey to-date and how we are thinking about our future.

As stated in a joint press statement yesterday “TeamIndus and Antrix have mutually decided to terminate the launch services agreement signed in 2016”. While that may mean that we will not meet the current Google Lunar XPRIZE timeline of March 31, 2018, we continue our endeavour to become the world’s first private space exploration mission and are exploring alternate launch providers for the same.

The road thus far

Reflecting

Our journey which started in 2011 with the vision to put India on the global map for deep technology — participating in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition — now moves us into the next phase of our evolution as an organization.

TeamIndus started out as a hypothesis a little over seven years ago; as an impossible dream. Our genesis was in the idea that cutting-edge space exploration can be done in the private domain and that too, out of India. And we believed a collaborative platform would be the way to build the future.

This mission is a testimony and a celebration to some of the greatest things that India has to offer to the world — it remains #HarIndianKaMoonshot — the audacious goal, the young bright engineers, partners who invest their resources irrespective of the outcome, the can-do no-fear-of-failure entrepreneurial spirit. Along the way we are happy to have made mistakes and learnt from them, taken corrective actions, and at each turn discovered something new.

The Moon mission

The Google Lunar XPRIZE was the catalyst to get us started on this journey. It has sparked space as a sunrise industry in many countries, and we believe its impact will last way beyond the competition itself. Look out for a blog post on the positive impact of GLXP soon.

Let us now come to a quick update on where we stand with respect to our GLXP mission. We had successfully completed qualification tests of our spacecraft and our rover ECA. At this point we can put together the flight model of the spacecraft in under six months ready to go once we have our updated launch date.

Team HAKUTO of ispace Japan have been amazing partners to our journey. We have learnt a lot from them and hopefully they did the same. In our conversations about future plans, there are a lot of synergies that have come up and we look forward to working closely with them over the next year or so, as both our companies look to commercialize space beyond the Earth orbit.

We are thankful to all the sponsors for multiple science experiment payloads: Department of Biotechnology for INSTEM, Dr. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and Biocon Foundation for Team ZOI, Roshni Nadar and Shiv Nadar University for Team EARS, TTK Industries and Mr Lakshmi Narayanan amongst many others who contributed to TeamIndus Foundation programs. We remain committed to flying all these scientific experiments on board our spacecraft when we head out to the Moon.

Engineering

Our engineering and development fundamentals are based on first principles which gives us complete control over our spacecraft and our mission. While we have nearly a dozen engineering sub-systems at work, the work we have done can be broadly classified into spacecraft mechanical, avionics, mission operations and AIT (Assembly, Integration, Testing). As part of completing our spacecraft qualification — the step before flight model integration — we have completed Critical Design Review (CDR) stage for all sub-systems.

Spacecraft mechanical systems have been optimized to the point where the structural mass is less than 9% of the total lift-off mass. The flight and auxiliary computer, control algorithms have been put through Monte Carlo analysis several 100,000 times giving us, at this point in time, a greater than 85% confidence of soft landing at the desired location within a 100 meter accuracy. Mission operation rehearsals are now a weekly event and requires our team to command the spacecraft to meet the mission objectives despite induced errors or variation in behavior of the spacecraft.

Dr. Kasturirangan has been a mentor, a guide and a supporter throughout our journey. Based on his guidance, today we have over 10 retired ISRO scientists who work full time with us and over 2 dozen scientists in a weekly review capacity.

Fund raising

The domain of space was always expected to be an expensive proposition. Our mission to the Moon is expected to cost us $60 million, of which we have raised a little more than 50%. We are looking at commercially viable means of raising the rest of the financing needed, including expanding our payload delivery capacity and international funding.

All those who came on board

Even though we never publicly launched our crowdfunding initiative, we had over 9000 folks who signed up for our Million2Moon program — by paying up Rs. 500 to send the names of their loved ones to the Moon on board our spacecraft. The support was hugely encouraging and we look forward to it in the future too. Until we have a definitive fly-by date, it is only fair we return this money. We have initiated the process to effect a full refund of these transactions.

We are in awe of the kind and amount of support we have received from Mr. Nandan Nilekani. He has been our anchor. We are thankful for Mr Ratan Tata, Mr Ashish Kacholia, Dr Vivek Raghavan, Mr Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, Mr RK Damani, Mr Sachin Bansal, Mr Binny Bansal, Mr. Rajiv Mody, Mr Jagdish Mehta, Mr Gowri Subramanian, Dr Umesh Maheshwari amongst others who have not only invested in the company but continue to support the vision of building a globally competitive NewSpace enterprise out of India.

Whether we succeed or fail in life depends on our ability to conquer the challenges in our opportunities, and to discover the opportunities in our challenges
~Joan Marques

The road ahead

Beyond this mission

Today there are no bounds to what humankind can achieve. It is a logical progression for us to now expand into space as a new place to be, as a new place to explore. Space exploration will be the precursor for sustainable utilization of space resources as well as making space a destination that common people can add to their itinerary in the near future.

We continue to work closely with global partners, customers and the wider science community, listening in carefully to where they would like to go and how we can enable their journeys.

We are counting on our rockstar team that has created a knowledge base, capabilities that we will now utilize to mount multiple missions over the next 5 years and to demonstrate not just the capability, but also the repeatability, precision and the ability to send back amazing science data beyond the Earth-orbit.

The role of NewSpace companies is to demonstrate capability, to bring online consistent capacity to go beyond Earth-orbit and to do so as efficiently as possible.

We believe, given how far we have come in the past 7 years, TeamIndus has the right kind of head-start to lead the global narrative on exploration of space beyond Earth-orbit.

Thank you once again for your confidence and your support. We fell short this time, but commit here, to aim bigger, brighter and higher each day.

The Moon is still on. And so is a future beyond our first Moon mission!

P.S. We also hosted a Tweet Chat to take all the questions on the path ahead for TeamIndus. You can check it out here.