Secretive moon startup led by ex-Blue Origin leaders raises new tranche of funding


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

Interlune, a startup that’s been around for at least three years but has made almost zero public announcements about its tech, has raised $15.5 million in new funding and aims to close another $2 million. A representative for Interlune declined to comment on this story.   

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

Much of what’s 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: “We aim to be the first company that harvests natural resources from the moon to use here on Earth,” he reportedly said. “We’re building a completely novel approach to extract those resources, efficiently, cost-effectively and also responsibly. The goal is really to create a sustainable in-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 launchers and lunar landers. Interlune is being led by Rob Meyerson, an aerospace executive who was president at Blue Origin for 15 years. Meyerson is also a prolific angel investor, with investments in well-known hardware startups including Axiom Space, Starfish Space, Hermeus and Hadrian Automation.

The filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also lists attorney H. Indra Hornsby as a company executive. Hornsby previously held the position of general counsel at BlackSky and Spaceflight Industries, and also worked as an executive VP at Rocket Lab.

What little else is known of Interlune’s tech comes from an abstract of a small SBIR the startup was awarded last year from the National Science Foundation. Under that award, the company said it will aim to “develop a core enabling technology for lunar in situ resource utilization: the ability to sort ‘moon dirt’ (lunar regolith) by particle size.”

“By enabling raw lunar regolith to be sorted into multiple streams by particle size, the technology will provide appropriate feedstocks for lunar oxygen extraction systems, lunar 3-dimensional printers, and other applications,” the abstract says.

A growing number of space startups are focusing on what’s known as in-situ resource utilization (ISRU), or collecting and transforming space resources into valuable commodities. Much of this is driven by NASA’s stated priority to build a long-term human outpost on the moon via its Artemis program: The agency acknowledges that longer-term stays in space will require the ability to generate materials locally — whether that’s to build roads, produce breathable air or even make rocket propellants.

But it isn’t just startups that are trying to commercialize ISRU tech; last year, Blue Origin announced that it had made solar cells and transmission wires out of a material that’s chemically identical to lunar regolith.

In its February 2023 announcement on the tech, Blue Origin said, “Learning to live off the land – on the Moon and on Mars – will require extensive collaboration across the ISRU community.” The phrase is echoed in Interlune’s abstract: “The use of the Moon’s resources is a disruptive capability that will enable missions there to ‘live off the land,’ making the development of this technology important for government agencies and industry alike.”



Source link

By asm3a