Startup Interlune, created by former leaders Blue Origin, announced plans to extract rare helium-3 from Moon. Helium-3 is a stable isotope of helium and its use can contribute to the development of quantum computing and thermonuclear energy.
The company closed the latest round of financing in the amount of $15,5 million after the previous seeding round in the amount of $2,69 million. However, the exact reason for the increase in capital remained unknown until recently.
Secret presentations of the company Interlune, held in the spring of 2022 and autumn of 2023, showed that the company is seeking financing for the development and testing of equipment for the extraction of helium-3 from lunar regolith. The latter presentation contained information about the «revolutionary method of extraction» Helium-3, but details about the method remained secret. The illustrations on the slides showed the development of sedan-sized extractors with the aim of creating effective physical installations. However, no information was provided on methods of storage and transportation of Helium-3 to Earth.
Interlune predicts sharp growth in demand for Helium-3 in the coming years, especially in the areas of quantum computing, medical imaging, space fuel and thermonuclear fusion. By 2040, the annual demand for helium-3 could reach 4000 kilograms compared to the current 5 kilograms.
The production of helium-3 on the Moon is not a new concept. Data regarding the presence of this isotope were collected during the mission «Apollon». However, developing extraction technology for commercial use proved difficult. The use of helium-3 in thermonuclear reactors promises to be attractive, as its use does not create radioactive waste. Nevertheless, the commercial use of thermonuclear synthesis as an energy source on Earth is a distant prospect, and there are still many steps ahead for the application of this technology in space.
In its plans to extract helium-3, the company Interlune faces competition from other countries, including China, which has already announced its successes in extracting helium-3 on the Moon in 2022 as part of the robotic mission «Chánъ-5». Given China’s interest in this resource and its importance for national security, Interlune can count on the support of government agencies and investors.
The Interlune team is led by experienced industry representatives, including former CEO of Blue Origin Rob Meyerson, former chief architect of Blue Origin Gary Lai and COO Andrew Hornsby with experience working at Rocket Lab, BlackSky and Spaceflight Industries. Interlune plans to demonstrate its technology on the Moon as early as 2026 and launch a pilot installation for the extraction of helium-3 in 2028. If the plans work out as expected, the company can expect significant revenues starting at the beginning of the next decade. The company told investors that it could generate $500 million in annual regular income, and this figure would only increase.
However, despite the prospects, the implementation of the Interlune plan will require serious financial costs. The company will need to finance the start-up, find a partner to deliver the extracted resources and create all the necessary equipment for large-scale production. However, the exact cost of producing Helium-3 still remains unclear. However, if Interlune can realize 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 exclusively on using lunar resources for orbital applications, like Argo Space Corporation, or focused only on extracting useful Excavated, as AstroForge.