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Firm gets capital for space proposal

Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

A new Albuquerque company, Masterson Industries LLC, won venture capital backing this week to produce industrial materials in space.

The company, formed last year, received a seven-figure investment from Cottonwood Technology Fund in New Mexico and Pangaea Ventures Fund III LP, which specializes in advanced-materials financing.

The money will allow Masterson to begin producing “microgravity-enabled materials,” starting with a first flight to space in early fall.

“We’re providing enough capital for them to prove their process and deliver initial products to customers,” said Cottonwood managing partner David Blivin.

The company has a partnership with an unnamed out-of-state firm for space flights, said Masterson co-founder and President Rich Glover.

“This can’t be done on the ground, so we have a strategic partner who will provide recurring flights,” Glover said. “Our initial flight in September or October won’t be in New Mexico, but future flights could be.”

The goal is to regularly produce advanced materials in the microgravity of space, such as gallium nitride used in the semiconductor industry.

“If you produce the materials on Earth, it’s subject to the forces of gravity, which often creates defects and anomalies,” Blivin said. “By eliminating those forces, you get perfect or near-perfect materials.”

Glover said it can’t be done on the International Space Station, nor aboard tourist flights like Virgin Galactic plans at Spaceport America.

“It’s not only eliminating gravity, but also the vibrations, jitters and people bumping into things that would occur on the space station or on tourism flights,” he said. “We need dedicated flights that are completely isolated.”

Zero-defect materials would be of high value in the semiconductor and other industries, said Pangaea general partner Chris Erickson.

“We are genuinely excited about the opportunity to work with Cottonwood to turn Masterson’s truly disruptive technology into a major force across multiple markets,” Erickson said in a statement.