Google will not extend Lunar Xprize deadline

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Four teams around the world have been racing to complete spacecrafts capable of landing on and exploring the moon’s surface. However, none are close enough to launch for Google to justify extending the deadline.

Team SpaceIL is short on funding and the other three — Moon Express, TeamIndus and Synergy Moon — will not be ready to launch this year.

SpaceIL. “We’ll be ready to launch somewhere in 2018,” SpaceIL CEO Eran Privman told CNBC. “But we would definitely like it to move back. No one will be able to launch by the end of March.”

The Israeli nonprofit needed to raise $7.5 million by the end of 2017 to pay for its launch contract, building and testing of its lunar craft, as well as payments for its engineers and partners. SpaceIL said that if it did not raise the funding, it will forfeit the launch contract it currently has, causing the team to drop out of the competition.

“Give us another few months — until the end of 2018,” Privman said of the Lunar Xprize deadline.

SpaceIL did not respond to multiple CNBC requests for comment after the fundraising deadline passed.

TeamIndus. The next closest competitor to SpaceIL is TeamIndus, according to two people familiar with the matter.

TeamIndus entered into an agreement in December 2016 with Japanese Team Hakuto to launch both team’s spacecrafts aboard an Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) rocket. However, on January 11, Team Hakuto announced that TeamIndus had not been able to agree with ISRO on a launch date to send the rovers to the moon.

“It is now deemed difficult to launch [the rovers] before the race deadline of March 31,” Hakuto said in a statement.

Team Hakuto was originally a separate effort from Japanese start-up ispace. A Hakuto spokesperson confirmed to CNBC the team’s rover arrived at the TeamIndus facility on Dec. 19, for pre-launch inspections.

TeamIndus declined CNBC’s request for comment.

Moon Express is “still hoping to launch the lander next year,” but has said that the competition is not the company’s main priority. The company has won more than $600,000 under NASA’s Innovative Lunar Demonstration Data Program, and $1.25 million as a part of previous milestones of the Lunar Xprize.

The company has an existing five-launch contract with Rocket Lab, which completed the second test of its Electron vehicle on Saturday. The rocket reached orbit for the first time, deploying a payload of micro-satellites. However, a person familiar with the Electron rocket said the Moon Express lander is too heavy for the Electron rocket, making it physically impossible to put the spacecraft into an orbit capable of reaching the moon.

Moon Express declined CNBC’s request for comment, instead pointing to a recent Space News op-ed by CEO Bob Richards titled “applauding the Google Lunar Xprize.”

Synergy Moon has a launch agreement with Interorbital Systems to use a Neptune 8 rocket, which the latter company has not yet built or tested. The Interorbital rocket currently undergoing testing is a sounding rocket — meaning it cannot even reach Earth orbit, much less making it to the moon.

Synergy Moon did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

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