Moon Mining Startup Interlune Aims for Helium-3 Extraction by 2030

Moon Mining Startup Interlune Aims for Helium-3 Extraction by 2030

In an ambitious leap towards the future of energy and space industry, the moon mining startup Interlune has set its sights on extracting helium-3 from the lunar surface by 2030. Founded by former executives of Blue Origin, Interlune is leading the charge into what could be a new era of space exploration and resource utilization.

Key Highlights:

  • Helium-3 Extraction Plans: Interlune plans to start helium-3 extraction operations on the moon by the end of this decade, targeting a rare isotope known for its potential in fusion power.
  • Prospecting and Pilot Missions: A prospecting payload is scheduled for late 2026 to measure helium-3 levels in lunar soil, with a pilot plant test following in 2028.
  • Leadership and Funding: The startup is led by Rob Meyerson, former President of Blue Origin, and has secured $15.5 million in funding after a $2.69 million pre-seed round.
  • Technological Breakthroughs: Interlune claims to have developed a unique extraction method for helium-3, aiming to set up scalable extraction facilities on the moon.
  • International Interest and Competition: China’s recent moves in helium-3 mining highlight the strategic importance of lunar resources, creating a competitive and national security dimension to the venture.

Moon Mining Startup Interlune Aims for Helium-3 Extraction by 2030

The Path to 2030: Interlune’s Moonshot Mission

Interlune’s journey to the moon begins with a small-scale prospecting mission aimed for 2026, leveraging commercial landers for payload delivery. This initial step is designed to measure helium-3 content in the lunar soil and to demonstrate extraction capabilities without returning samples to Earth. The following mission in 2028 intends to test a pilot plant and Interlune’s robotic harvester, with the goal of sending helium-3 back to our planet.

Rob Meyerson emphasizes a sustainable approach to lunar mining, comparing the targeted excavation sites to tilled fields rather than strip mines. This environmentally conscious strategy extends to the use of existing commercial lunar payload services for transportation, highlighting collaboration with other space industry players under NASA’s Artemis program.

The Helium-3 Opportunity

Helium-3’s significance stems from its potential as a clean and efficient fuel for fusion reactors, a technology that promises vast amounts of energy without the radioactive waste associated with current nuclear power. The isotope is exceedingly rare on Earth but more abundant on the moon, deposited over aeons by the solar wind. This rarity, coupled with its high price on Earth, makes the moon an attractive source for helium-3, despite the technical and logistical challenges involved in lunar mining.

Looking Ahead: Challenges and Potential

Interlune’s mission is not without its hurdles. The high costs of space missions, the development of necessary technology for extraction and transportation, and international competition, particularly from China, pose significant challenges. However, the potential rewards are considerable, with projections of substantial demand for helium-3 driven by applications in quantum computing, medical imaging, and, fundamentally, fusion energy.

As we approach the 2030s, Interlune’s endeavors could mark a significant milestone in human space exploration and the utilization of extraterrestrial resources. The success of these missions could not only advance fusion research but also pave the way for a sustainable presence in space, highlighting the crucial role of international cooperation and innovation in the final frontier.

About the author

Allen Parker

Allen Parker

Allen is a qualified writer and a blogger, who loves to dabble with and write about technology. While focusing on and writing on tech topics, his varied skills and experience enables him to write on any topic related to tech which may interest him. You can contact him at allen@pc-tablet.com.