Interlune’s lunar harvester, a rendering. Credits: Interlune.

Interlune: A New Company Will Mine Helium-3 On The Moon

Interlune, a new space mining company, announced itself publicly on March 13, 2024, declaring $18 million in funding to develop its harvesting technology

The space startup Interlune emerged from stealth mode with a public announcement on March 13, 2024, unveiling its mission “to lead the world in sustainable, responsible harvesting of natural resources from space to benefit humanity.” Founded by two former Blue Origin board members and an Apollo astronaut, the company will focus first on harvesting Helium-3 from the Moon regolith.

The company has designed novel machinery and processes to achieve the first goal, including product delivery to Earth. The declared funding of $18 million will support the development of the new technology.


Helium-3, the extraterrestrial gold?

Helium is well-known as the gas used to fill birthday balloons. Its isotope, Helium-3, is rare on Earth and is currently used in the superconducting quantum computing industry and for medical imaging, with an increasing need.

Its future potential as fuel for nuclear fusion reactors could further boost its demand. Even if not the most energetic fuel, the fusion of Helium-3 is aneutronic, unlike the most famous deuterium-tritium reaction, meaning that it does not release neutrons and does not cause the nearby material to become radioactive, facilitating its handling.

The lunar regolith is rich in Helium-3 since it is a byproduct of the Sun fusion reaction, transported by solar wind. The Earth’s magnetosphere is deflecting it, while it can reach the Moon’s surface without obstacles, remaining there almost indefinitely.

Helium-3 from the Sun. Credits: Interlune.
Helium-3 from the Sun. Credits: Interlune

Interlune aims to harvest it on the Moon and send it back to Earth to sell it on the market at the current prices, high enough to sustain such a business model, as Interlune itself declared.

“Helium-3 is the only resource out there that is priced high enough to support going to the Moon and bringing it back to Earth. There are customers that want to buy it today.”

— Rob Meyerson, President of Interlune

If successful, the sale of Lunar Helium-3 will be the first of a material mined outside the Earth, fostering the fledging Lunar economy.


Strict roadmap to be the first Moon-mining company

The company aims to start operationalizing and return Helium-3 by 2030, planning a tight roadmap of activities to reach this goal.

The technology demonstrator will launch by 2026, leveraging one of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Services Provider (CLSP) missions to sample the regolith, measure Helium-3 presence, and test its extraction.

Intuitive Machines Nova-C descends to the Moon's surface during the IM-1 Mission, the second of NASA's CLSP Program. Credits: Intuitive Machines.
Intuitive Machines Nova-C descends to the Moon’s surface during the IM-1 Mission, the second of NASA’s CLSP Program. Credits: Intuitive Machines

A pilot mission for their lunar harvester is scheduled for 2028, an end-to-end demonstration of the entire operation, enabling them to begin the mining activities as per their current plan. However, the final equipment will need transport to the Moon with a higher capacity than the current landers such as SpaceX and Blue Origin will provide, with the additional capability to return material to Earth.

Following the Lunar Helium-3 commercialization, Interlune aims to “harvest other resources such as industrial metals, rare Earth elements, and water on the Moon’s surface, to support a long-term presence on the Moon and a robust in-space economy,” as stated on their website.


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Giancarlo Albertinazzi

Giancarlo Albertinazzi

Space Ambassador, Terranaut, Future Spacepolitan, Writer of Becoming Spacepolitans Blog

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