The origins of this race can be traced to the Google Lunar XPrize, which was launched in 2007 and offered a $20 million prize to any team from around the world that landed a rover on the Moon without significant government support.
Even though none of the teams competing in the competition, including India’s Team Indus, was able to achieve the target, all continued to pursue the goal.
Meanwhile, NASA is supporting several US-based teams by teaming up with them for the delivery of space and technology payloads to the moon under a programme called Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS).
A good place to start comparing India’s ability to enter the commercial lunar race is by analysing the price-to-payload performance that each of the private lunar rovers is planning to deliver.
US-based companies such as Astrobotic, OrbitBeyond (which is planning to use the design of the Team Indus lander) and Intuitive Machines intend to carry 90 kg, 40 kg and 100 kg, respectively, to the surface of the Moon.
Last month, NASA awarded OrbitBeyond $97 million (Rs 679 crore) for carrying four payloads on a lander that intends to touchdown on Mare Imbrium (a mare is a plain formed by volcanic eruptions), while Astrobotic got $79.5 million (Rs 556 crore) for 14 payloads to the crater Lacus Mortis, and Intuitive Machines $77 million (Rs 539 crore) for four payloads to Oceanus Procellarum or Mare Serenitatis.
Other lunar rovers such as iSpace from Japan and PT Scientists from Germany plan to carry payloads of up to 30 kg and 5 kg, respectively.
Astrobotic, whose lander is similar in size to ISRO’s Vikram lander, has published a clear pricing structure, projecting a cost of $300,000/kg (Rs 2.1 crore) for payloads on their orbiter, $1.2 million/kg (Rs 8.4 crore) for payloads on their lander, and $4.5 million/kg (Rs 31.5 crore) for payloads on their rover.
A comparison of the capacity that these companies are trying to establish with ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 points to some early evidence that India’s space agency may be able to offer a better price-performance.
Chandrayaan-2 is scheduled to take off on 15 July and land near the Moon’s South Pole, an uncharted territory, in what has been described as ISRO’s most complex mission ever.
India’s lunar orbiter (carrying eight payloads), lunar lander Vikram (carrying four payloads) and the rover Pragyaan (carrying two payloads) weigh 2,379 kg, 1,371 kg and 27 kg, respectively. The mission cost for Chadrayaan-2 is estimated to be $86 million (Rs 603 crore), apart from the launch cost of $54 million (Rs 375 crore).
If successful, India’s Chandrayaan-2 will establish India’s capability to safely land on the moon and operate a rover on the lunar surface for the first time.
The investment thesis behind commercial lunar exploration companies suggests that there is global interest in sending various kind of payloads to the moon, and that these operators are fighting to secure a pie of this market for themselves.
If the thesis is sound, then there will be a flow of payloads to the lunar orbit and surface, and this puts India in a potential position to exploit the price-performance ISRO can deliver in this market and offer to fly some payloads to the moon’s orbit and its surface in future missions.
The PSLV example
To provide a sense of how this can work, one could look at the way India entered the global commercial launch industry. ISRO exploited the additional capacity on its trusted workhorse, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), by offering the additional mass available to global satellite companies. This proved to be a great business, thanks to a combination of the PSLV’s high reliability and competitive launch costs. In 2015-16, for example, ISRO earned Rs 420.9 crore from launching satellites for other countries.
The success of Chandrayaan-2 will prove India’s ability to carry payloads to the surface of the moon. If India plans to continue the exploration of the moon after Chandrayaan-2, some additional capacity on the lunar orbiter and rover can be allocated to commercial payloads. This can help subsidise some of the costs incurred for future missions and potentially provision greater number or frequency of lunar missions undertaken by India.
As PSLV gained popularity in the commercial industry, launch lobbyists made a case for a ban against the use of the Indian launch vehicle because ISRO is a government agency and there were fears that its participation could “distort the conditions of competition” in the launch-services market.
There is no doubt that such challenges may occur if India chooses to compete in the lunar-launch market through ISRO-built capabilities. However, if there are positive externalities for the country and the business case has a sound economic return, the policymakers in the country should take a stand that markets need to decide the uptake to such an offering (as they did with the PSLV).
If a lunar economy truly exists, India’s entry into this niche will indeed be a very interesting one to watch out for.
Quelle: Zhe Print
Ambitious Chandrayaan-2 project nears launch date
Nellore: The team of engineers and scientists at Satish Dhawan Space Centre have been working almost round the clock for the prestigious launch of the long awaited Chandrayaan-2 Mission scheduled for the small hours of July 15 from SHAR in SPSR Nellore district.
It may be recalled that the first mission to the moon, Chandrayaan 1, was launched successfully on October 22, 2008, from Shar. The mission confirmed the presence of water molecules on the moon’s surface.
Chandrayaan-2 is the second Indian lunar mission that will boldly where no country has ever gone before — the moon's south polar region. Through this effort, the aim is to improve our understanding of the moon — discoveries that will benefit India and humanity as a whole, say ISRO scientists.
According to Isro scientists, one of the reasons for the mission is that the moon is the closest cosmic body at which space discovery can be attempted and documented. It is also a promising test bed to demonstrate technologies required for deep-space missions.
Chandrayaan 2 attempts to foster a new age of discovery, increase our understanding of space, stimulate the advancement of technology, promote global alliances, and inspire a future generation of explorers and scientists.
The moon provides the best linkage to the earth’s early history. It offers an undisturbed historical record of the inner solar system environment.
Though there are a few mature models, the origin of Moon still needs further explanations.
Extensive mapping of lunar surface to study variations in lunar surface composition is essential to trace back the origin and evolution of the Moon.
The lunar South Pole is especially interesting because the lunar surface area, which remains in shadow, is much larger than that at the North Pole. There is a possibility of the presence of water in permanently shadowed areas around it.
In addition, the South Pole region has craters that are cold traps and contain a fossil record of the early solar system.
Accordingly, Chandrayaan-2 will attempt to soft land the lander -Vikram and rover- Pragyan in a high plain between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N, at a latitude of about 70° south.
Spacecraft to land on Moon on Sept. 6
Chandrayaan-2 will be launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota on-board GSLV Mk-III on July 15, 2019. It will be injected into an earth parking 170 x40400 km orbit.
A series of maneuvers will be carried out to raise its orbit and put Chandrayaan-2 on the lunar transfer trajectory.
On entering the moon’s sphere of influence, on-board thrusters will slow down the spacecraft for lunar capture. The orbit of Chandrayaan-2 around the moon will be circularized to 100x100 km orbit through a series of orbital maneuvers.
On the day of landing, the lander will separate from the orbiter and then perform a series of complex maneuvers comprising of rough braking and fine braking.
Imaging of the landing site region prior to landing will be done for finding safe and hazard-free zones. The lander-Vikram will finally land near the South Pole of the moon on September 6, 2019.
Subsequently, Rover will roll out and carry out experiments on the lunar surface for a period of 1 lunar day which is equal to 14 earth days.
Orbiter will continue its mission for a duration of one year. Chandrayaan 2 will be aided in achieving its mission by some of India's most advanced engineering marvels.
Its integrated module, which comprises technology and software developed across the country, includes ISRO's most powerful launch vehicle to date and a wholly indigenous rover.
Some of the advancements on the spacecraft include a lander capable of soft landing on the lunar surface, an algorithm wholly developed by India's scientific community and a rover capable of conducting in-situ payload experiments.