Interlune Unveils Plans for Robotic Harvester to Mine Lunar Helium-3


Key Takeaways:

– Interlune plans to build a robotic harvester to extract helium-3 from Moon’s dirt for various applications.
– The startup aims to launch its first mission as early as 2026 with commercial operations beginning in the 2030s.
– Interlune has raised $18 million funding, including a $15 million investment reported last month.
– Rob Meyerson, Interlune’s co-founder, believes it is now both technologically and economically feasible to harvest natural resources from the moon.

Seattle’s space startup, Interlune, recently disclosed plans to develop a lunar robotic harvester. The high-tech machine is designed to extract helium-3 from moon dirt and export it back to Earth. Applications for the substance span from facilitating quantum computing to powering fusion reactors.

Ex Blue Origin Executive Charts Lunar Venture

Rob Meyerson, a co-founder of Interlune and former president of space venture Blue Origin, aimed by Jeff Bezos, announced the ambitious plan. He believes an early exploratory mission could take flight by 2026. Commercial operations for the venture could kick off in the 2030s.

Meyerson stated during a press release that this venture signals the first time in history where lunar resource extraction is achievable, both technologically and economically. Interlune’s unique team of experienced experts has embarked on creating the core technologies. These technologies will responsibly extract and process lunar resources to serve a broad customer base.

Interlune Funding Hits $18 Million

Interlune confirmed that it recently raised $18 million. The amount includes angel investments and over $15 million reported in last month’s regulatory filing. Alexis Ohanian’s venture firm, Seven Seven Six, led the funding round. Ohanian is best known as the co-founder of the social media platform, Reddit.

There were several other contributing investors like Gaingels, Liquid 2 Ventures, Aurelia Foundry Fund, and Shasta Ventures. University of Michigan’s alumni, where Meyerson graduated, also participated in the round. Katelin Holloway, a founding partner of Seven Seven Six, will join Interlune’s board of directors.

Rare Earth Element in Lunar Soil

The helium-3 harvested from lunar soil has various uses. It serves as a coolant for quantum computers, as well as having applications in national security and medical imaging sectors. However, perhaps its most exciting application is its potential as a fuel for commercial fusion reactions.

Despite its myriad of uses, helium-3 is extremely rare on Earth with prices often soaring to over $2,750 per liter. That’s over $500,000 an ounce. Interlune plans to address this issue by exploiting the increased abundance of helium-3 on the moon.

Eco-Friendly Lunar Harvesting

While Interlune’s plans are ambitious, the startup emphasizes on a “sustainable and responsible” extraction approach. Meyerson stated that the harvested area would resemble a tilled field rather than a strip mine.

According to the startup, the helium-3 extraction process created by Interlune’s team requires significantly less power than other methods promoted by NASA. The company intends to transport bottles of helium-3 from the moon to Earth using reusable space vehicles.

Interlune also plans to leverage the services of other companies delivering payloads to the moon, hoping to bring lunar materials back to Earth. The startup’s business plan also includes utilizing existing efforts to develop lunar rovers, such as NASA’s Lunar Terrain Vehicle.

Focusing on the Future

Interlune’s development plan anticipates dispatching a small-scale prospecting payload to the moon by late 2026. This mission aims to demonstrate that Interlune can extract the lunar soil’s helium-3, but it won’t be bringing anything back to Earth just yet. A follow-up mission in 2028 will establish a pilot plant to test Interlune’s robotic harvester and demonstrate the potential to export helium-3 back to Earth.

By 2030, Interlune plans to have operational plans in place to extract helium-3 on a larger scale. The harvested helium-3 will then be sold to customers commencing in the 2030s. Soon, Interlune may pave the way for robust, economically viable space exploration with a vision of tapping into lunar resources.

Jonathan Browne
Jonathan Browne
Jonathan Browne is the CEO and Founder of Livy.AI

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