Sydney’s own quantum sensor startup, Q-CTRL, has received $US25 million ($35 million) in Series B funding led by the investment arm of the European aerospace giant, Airbus Ventures, as part of its mission to mine the moon.
The funding was raised with participation from Ridgeline Partners, Main Sequence Ventures, Horizons Ventures, Square Peg Capital, Sierra Ventures, DCVC, Sequoia Capital China, and In-Q-Tel.
In total, the company has raised more than $43 million (60 million AUD) from funding rounds.
Who is Q-CTRL?
Q-CTRL provides quantum control engineering solutions that improve quantum computing performance by addressing the most pressing challenge in the field, hardware error, and instability.
Customers such as IBM and Rigetti use Q-CTRL’s quantum control software to provide a stable environment to operate their quantum computers.
The $US25 million Q-CTRL has received will go towards hiring staff and enabling new data-as-a-service markets powered by quantum sensing capabilities.
The company will also continue to invest in the development of quantum control for quantum computing and quantum sensing for acceleration, gravity, and magnetic fields.
Founder and CEO of Q-CTRL Michael Biercuk said, “Q-CTRL’s vision has always been to enable all applications of quantum technology. This new fundraising is critical in realising our mission to deliver real value to the space, defence, and commercial sectors.”
Quantum computing in space
Recent technical and product developments have seen Q-CTRL developing space-qualified quantum sensors and exploring Earth, the moon, and Mars technologies. The developments have taken place alongside a group of Australian firms led by Fleet Space Technologies.
To date, Q-CTRL’s quantum sensing client list includes Advanced Navigation, the Australian Department of Defense, Air Force Research Lab, and the Australian Space Agency.
“The team’s impressive quantum control software suite enables speed and agility at a moment of rapid acceleration for the entire quantum industry,” said Lewis Pinault, partner of Airbus Ventures, based in Tokyo.
“We’re particularly excited about Q-CTRL’s widening span of advanced applications and solutions, including lunar development, geospatial intelligence, and Earth observation, all increasingly critical in the global effort to address the accelerating planetary system crises we now face.”
Moon mining a possibility
Airbus Ventures is exploring the possibility of mining the moon and is investing in startups around the globe to make moon mining a reality. Airbus partnered with Air Liquide in October 2021 to announce the creation of a collaborative non-profit platform, EURO2MOON, to explore and develop lunar resources.
Airbus has also invested in a Tokyo-based company, ispace. ispace is planning to send a lander to the moon sometime in the next year.
Mr Pinault said, “We’re focused on the development of lunar resources. We are trying to find the entrepreneurs around the world who are able to build the ready transport systems, the robotics, the rovers, to do mineral assay work, to be able to identify what we would call rare earth elements and precious metals, platinum group metals, cobalt [on the moon].”
Since water ice was discovered on the moon in 1994, there has been growing interest in harnessing the moon’s resources. However, to mine the moon’s resources,they must first be found.
Currently, finding resources requires several different and complicated “robots, rovers and orbital capabilities”. But quantum sensing equipment developed by Q-CTRL potentially offers a solution.
The Earth’s gravitational fields can be measured from space using the hypersensitive quantum sensors developed by Q-CTRL.
“We can measure underground water levels; we can measure ocean currents. It’s done directly from space,” said Mr Biercuk.
Airbus backed the Q-CTRL after the success of its technology for observation of Earth from space, used extensively by the Australian Defence Force. The same technology that Q-CTRL can use on the surface of the Earth can be applied to the surface of the moon.