Last August, Fortune India published a cover story about Bangalore-based Team Indus, which was embarking on the most audacious of all startup dreams out of India—landing a craft on the moon—as part of its endeavour to win the $40 million (Rs 252.6 crore) Google Lunar XPrize (GLXP). Central to the narrative was how private companies like Sasken and Larsen & Toubro were helping the only Indian team in the competition negotiate various challenges that were part of the mission. Now, Tata Communications has pitched in through a partnership deal, formalised after it was set in motion a while ago.

As part of the deal, Tata Communications will provide a host of services to Team Indus, free of charge. These include the use of low-latency network capabilities to connect data centres in India with a deep space network in the U.S., ensuring round-the-clock visibility of the lunar module, connectivity to and from the lunar rover, and distribution of the high-definition content captured from the moon as part of the competition mandate. That’s in addition to a dedicated hosting platform for flight-path analytics, telemetry algorithms, and videoconferencing facilities.

Julie Woods-Moss, chief marketing officer and chief executive of Nextgen business, Tata Communications, says the collaboration is being driven from the top, with managing director Vinod Kumar involved personally. Woods-Moss explains that the experience of working in the cutting-edge world of Formula 1 helped the company better appraise the opportunity and the challenges. Crucially, she adds that though the company “loves it when [it] can help Indian innovation,” it didn’t want the arrangement to be informal, as many such partnerships tend to be. “This being a mission-critical delivery, we will treat Team Indus like any other customer,” Woods-Moss says. “Everything is the same for them except the billing.”

Alliance between the competing teams and the private sector is a feature of the GLXP, and no team exemplifies it better than the U.S.-based frontrunner for the prize, Astrobotic, whose website features as many as seven strategic partners. These include Alcoa, National Instruments, Caterpillar, Carnegie Mellon University, Ansys, Agi, and International Rectifier Corporation. In fact, Astrobotic has announced that it is also collaborating with fellow competitor Hakuto from Japan.

Team Indus itself is fresh off proving its capabilities in landing systems and has won a $1 million GLXP milestone prize for its efforts. The team, led by former IT professional Rahul Narayan, is in talks with Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to secure a committed launch aboard ISRO’s workhorse, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). But as is the case with most government liaisons, progress has been slow.

The private space business in India is in its infancy, and it needs a booster dose to catch up with the West. Breakout startups like Team Indus, which could contain the seed of a next-generation aerospace enterprise, need the private sector to support their moonshot.

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