Interlune, a startup founded by former Blue Origin leaders, has raised funding to mine the helium-3 isotope on the Moon. Projected annual revenue is over $500 million

by alex

The company plans to create a facility for the extraction of helium-3 on the Moon by 2028

Interlune, a startup created by former Blue Origin executives, has announced plans to mine rare helium-3 on the Moon. Helium-3 is a stable isotope of helium and its use can contribute to the development of quantum computing and fusion energy. 

The company closed its latest round of funding at $15.5 million, following a previous seed round of $2.69 million. However, the exact reason for the increase in capital remained unknown until recently.

Interlune's secret presentations in spring 2022 and fall 2023 revealed that the company was seeking funding to develop and test equipment to extract helium-3 from lunar regolith. The last presentation contained information about a «revolutionary extraction method» helium-3, but details about the method remained a mystery. The images on the slides showed the development of sedan-sized extractors with the goal of creating efficient physical installations. However, no information was provided on methods for storing and transporting helium-3 to Earth.

Interlune predicts demand for helium-3 will surge in the coming years, especially in the fields of quantum computing, medical imaging, space fuel and nuclear fusion. By 2040, annual demand for helium-3 could reach 4,000 kilograms, up from the current 5 kilograms.

Helium-3 mining on the Moon — not a new concept. Data regarding the presence of this isotope were collected during the Apollo missions. However, developing extraction technology for commercial use has been difficult. The use of helium-3 in fusion reactors promises to be attractive because its use does not create radioactive waste. However, before the commercial use of nuclear fusion as an energy source on Earth — is a distant prospect, and there are still many stages to apply this technology in space.

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Стартап Interlune, основанный бывшими лидерами Blue Origin, привлёк финансирование для добычи изотопа гелия-3 на Луне. Прогнозируемый годовой доход составляет более $500 миллионов

In its plans to mine helium-3, Interlune faces competition from other countries, including China, which has already announced its success in mining helium-3 on the Moon in 2022 as part of the robotic mission «Chang'e-5& raquo; . Given China's interest in this resource and its national security implications, Interlune can count on the support of government agencies and investors.

The Interlune team is led by industry veterans, including former Blue Origin CEO Rob Meyerson, former Blue Origin Chief Architect Gary Lai, and COO Indra Hornsby, with experience at Rocket Lab, BlackSky, and Spaceflight Industries. Interlune plans to demonstrate its technology on the Moon as early as 2026 and launch a pilot helium-3 production facility in 2028. If the plans work as expected, the company can expect significant earnings starting early in the next decade. The company told investors it could generate $500 million in annual recurring revenue, with that number only set to rise.

However, despite the prospects, the implementation of the Interlune plan will require serious financial costs. The company will need to pay for the launch, find a partner to deliver the extracted resources and create all the necessary equipment for large-scale production. At the same time, the exact cost of helium-3 production remains unclear. However, if Interlune is able to carry out its plan, it will become a separate category of mining: there are other startups engaged in mining resources in space, but they are either focused solely on the use of lunar resources for orbital applications, like Argo Space Corporation, or are focused only on extracting useful fossils like AstroForge.

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