Interlune, the secret lunar start-up of ex-Blue Origin executives, has lunar mining projects


Intermoona stealth startup led by former Blue Origin executives, is focused on mining the moon for a rare isotope of helium that could be used to advance quantum computing and possibly even fusion power, TechCrunch has learned.

Regulatory filings reported here last week showed that the company recently raised $15.5 million in new capital; before that, Interlune raised a $2.69 million pre-seed round. But the rationale for the capital increase was poorly understood – until now.

Two of Interlune’s confidential pitch decks, dated spring 2022 and fall 2023 and viewed by TechCrunch, reveal that the startup was seeking this funding to build and test resource extraction hardware for lunar helium-3 ( He-3). A representative for Interlune declined to comment.

Interlune says in the most recent pitch deck that it has developed a “revolutionary extraction method” for He-3 from lunar regolith, although the slides don’t go into further detail. According to a slide, the startup is developing sedan-sized extractors combined with other hardware to efficiently create scalable physical installations. There is, however, no explanation of how the helium could be stored or how it could be transported to Earth.

He-3 is a stable isotope of helium; while the Earth is protected from the solar wind by its magnetic field, the Moon is bombarded by it and high-energy particles like He-3 are deposited on the lunar surface. On Earth, the most common source of He-3 comes from the decay of tritium, an artificial element used in nuclear weapons. Interlune predicts an “exponential” increase in demand for He-3 in the coming years, driven by areas such as quantum computing, medical imaging, space thrusters and fusion, as it forecasts a annual demand of 4,000 kilograms by 2040 (compared to only 5 kilos currently).

The good news is that He-3 is as abundant on the Moon as it is rare on Earth. Mining He-3 on the Moon is not a new concept: data collected from the Apollo mission shows that the isotope is abundant there. But for years it was considered science fiction: scientists never managed to develop the kind of extraction technology needed to make such an effort worthwhile. He-3 could be used to power fusion reactors – a particularly attractive concept because the byproducts would not be radioactive – but even though nuclear fusion research has made major advances in recent years, it will still be necessary many measures to make the merger a commercial success. viable energy source here on Earth (let alone in space).

Other countries have already started looking to our Moon to solve this problem. Most notably, China announced in 2022 that its Chang’e-5 robotic mission had collected a mineral from the new moon containing He-3, suggesting even larger reserves than previously thought.

China’s interest in He-3 mining creates a national security imperative to secure these enormous tonnages of resources on the Moon – which could mean promising traction for Interlune from government agencies doling out government contracts non-dilutive companies and investors looking for a defense-focused business. corner.

Interlune’s management team includes CEO Rob Meyerson, a prolific space industry investor and former chairman of Blue Origin; CTO Gary Lai, former chief architect at Blue Origin; and COO Indra Hornsby, with industrial experience at Rocket Lab, BlackSky and Spaceflight Industries. The startup has been around for at least three years, but beyond a few brief public statements, this is the first time the public has learned about its plans in any detail.

Image credits: Intermoon

The document also states that Interlune plans to demonstrate this technology on the Moon as early as 2026, with a pilot plant extracting He-3 in 2028. If the plans come to fruition as the company hopes, it told investors that it could see $500 million in investments. recurring annual revenues from He-3 recovery by the start of the next decade – and will only increase from there.

But it’s still an expensive plan: the company will have to pay for the launch, find a resource return partner, and build all the hardware needed to start large-scale mining. The economics, such as the cost of extracting a gram of helium, are also unclear. But if Interlune manages to pull this off, it will be in a league of its own: there are other startups focused on extracting resources in space, but they either focus on using lunar resources only for applications in orbit (like Argo space company) or they focus only on minerals (like AstroForge).


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