Israeli X-Prize team still short of funds

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Capitalism in space: The Israeli Google Lunar X-Prize competitor, SpaceIL, still needs to raise $7.5 million by December 20th or it will be forced to drop out of the competition, even though they say their spacecraft is finished.

SpaceIL initially estimated it would need about $8 million for the GLXP effort, but costs soared to $85 million, team members said. The team needs to raise $30 million by Dec. 20 to pay its bills. It has secured $22.5 million in pledges, contingent on the team’s ability to raise that additional $7.5 million.

I must admit that something about this stinks. Their budget has gone up more than ten times from its original estimate, from $8 million to $85 million. They have so far raised $55 million of hard cash, which is still about seven times their original budget, and with this they have actually built their spacecraft. Why do their need another $30 million? And why the hard December 20th deadline or they shut down?

As I say, something about this situation doesn’t feel right to me.


One comment

  • Edward

    Is it possible that the original $8 million estimate did not include launch and operations? In addition, with the delay of six years or so — the original competition date was by the year 2012 — development and construction costs could easily be two or three times more than originally expected.

    Often as a first-time project progresses, the team begins to realize the magnitude of the effort. This happened to the Apollo Lunar Module; no one had ever built such a machine before, and they realized a large number of unforeseen problems as they were developing the craft. The Israelis had never built a lunar rover before (few have), so they also lacked any previous experience to guide them.

    The article says that the date is to pay the company’s bills. Is this final push for cash for the launch, and is the drop dead date due to the launch provider’s requirement, or is the company currently depending upon the kindness of suppliers to keep going and those suppliers are now demanding payment?

    No matter how this turns out, the Google Lunar X-Prize is beginning to realize its overall goal.

    There are other competitors and at least one former competitor who have said that they will continue with their mission whether or not they are awarded the prize, and this innovation and new industry is exactly the purpose of the Lunar X-Prize, just as with the suborbital prize. The suborbital prize got three US companies working toward suborbital space tourism (one of which has gone bust), and last year China announced that it will enter the suborbital space tourism industry:

    It seems that whether or not anyone wins the prize, Google and Peter Diamandis will have started a new space industry: unmanned lunar commercial space.

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