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With a boost from Shell, HyperSciences blasts past $3M in crowdfunding campaign

Alan Boyle
HyperSciences testing
HyperSciences CEO Mark Russell, at right, grins for the camera while a teammate prepares for a projectile test firing. (HyperSciences Photo)

HyperSciences’ hypersonic blaster technology can be used to send projectiles up into the air, or down into rock — either way, the Spokane, Wash.-based startup says things are looking up.

The company’s unorthodox SeedInvest securities offering has raised more than $3 million so far. “We are actually on our way toward the full $10 million,” HyperScience CEO and founder Mark Russell told GeekWire. The SeedInvest effort builds on $3 million in previous investments, including support from the Washington Research Foundation, Kick-Start II, Cowles Company and The Toolbox.

Thanks to the fresh funding, about 10 employees are being added in Spokane as well as in Austin, Texas. Why set up an HQ2 in Austin? It’s near the site where HyperSciences is getting ready for a rock-blasting demonstration of its HyperDrill device. “It looks like a reasonable site for us,” said Russell, who’s a veteran of the Seattle startup scene as well as Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture.

Shell Oil recently agreed to pay out $250,000 to be in on the Texas drill demonstration, which is expected to take place in mid-2019. Russell said his company is recruiting additional industry partners to be in on what’s billed as a joint industry project, at a cost of $250,000 each. “It’s basically to get a seat at the table,” he explained.

HyperDrill is designed to fire projectiles at hypersonic speeds to break up the rock that’s in front of a drill bit. Petroleum extraction and tapping into geothermal energy are expected to be among the first applications for HyperSciences’ system, but they’re not the only ones. Gas-propelled projectiles could also help blast bigger tunnels through rock, or serve as small-scale hypersonic air vehicles.

The potential for hypersonic flight is the focus of HyperScience’s $125,000 Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project for NASA. Russell said the HyperDrone project is halfway through its Phase I development and testing program, and gearing up to seek a Phase II follow-up contract. Phase I flight tests are planned for around the end of January at Spaceport America in New Mexico, Russell said.

If the HyperDrone works the way Russell hopes, that could open the way for suborbital research flights with NASA — and also address the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s interest in rapid-response launch capabilities. The Pentagon is increasingly concerned about keeping pace with China’s and Russia’s hypersonic weapons programs.

For now, though, Russell is more excited about winning investors’ backing for HyperSciences’ down-to-earth applications.

“We’re giving people an opportunity to be part of something that’s literally ground-breaking,” he said. “I think we’re going to change the world, I really do.”

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