April 15, 2024
Secretive Moon startup led by former Blue Origin leaders raises new tranche of funding. techcrunch

A secretive startup focused on harvesting resources from the Moon led by ex-Blue Origin leaders has quietly closed a major new tranche of funding, according to regulatory documents.

Interlune, a startup that has been around for less than three years but has made almost zero public announcements about its technology, has raised $15.5 million in new funding and aims to close $2 million more. A representative for Interlune declined to comment for this story.

This is the first public indication that the company has closed any funding since its $1.85 million seed round in 2022.

What is known about the startup was reported by GeekWire last October, when Interlune CTO Gary Lai briefly described the startup during a speech at Seattle’s Museum of Flight: “Our goal is to be the first company By using natural resources from the Moon here on Earth,” he reportedly said. “We are creating an entirely new approach to extracting those resources efficiently, cost-effectively and responsibly .The goal is to really create a sustainable space economy.”

Lai is an aerospace engineer whose resume includes a 20-year stint at Blue Origin, where he eventually became chief architect for space transportation systems, including the launcher and lunar lander. Interlune is led by Rob Meyerson, an aerospace executive who was president of Blue Origin for 15 years. Meyerson is also a prolific angel investor, having invested in well-known hardware startups including Axiom Space, Starfish Space, Hermes, and Hadrian Automation.

Lawyer H. Indra Hornsby is also listed as a company executive in the filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Hornsby previously held the position of General Counsel at BlackSky and Spaceflight Industries, and also served as Executive VP at Rocket Lab.

Much of what is known about Interlune’s technology comes from the abstract of a short SBIR the startup was awarded from the National Science Foundation last year. Under that award, the company said its goal would be to “develop a key enabling technology for in-situ lunar resource utilization: the ability to sort ‘Moon dirt’ (lunar regolith) based on particle size.”

“By enabling raw lunar regolith to be sorted into multiple streams based on particle size, the technology will provide suitable feedstock for lunar oxygen extraction systems, lunar 3-dimensional printers, and other applications,” the abstract states.

A growing number of space startups are focusing on what is known as in-situ resource utilization (ISRU), or collecting and converting space resources into valuable commodities. Much of this is driven by NASA’s stated priority of building a long-term human outpost on the Moon through its Artemis program: the agency recognizes that long-term survival in space will require the ability to generate materials locally – regardless. Be it building roads, producing breathable air or even making rocket propellant.

But it’s not just startups that are trying to commercialize ISRU technology; Last year, Blue Origin announced that it had made solar cells and transmission wires from a material that is chemically similar to lunar regolith.

In its February 2023 announcement on the technology, Blue Origin said, “Learning to live far from the ground – on the Moon and Mars – will require broad collaboration across the ISRU community.” The phrase is echoed in Interlune’s abstract: “Using the Moon’s resources has a disruptive potential that will enable missions there to ‘live off the ground,’ making the development of this technology critical to government agencies and industry.”

Source: techcrunch.com

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