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Agile Space Industries wins money chase for venture capital

Maker of spacecraft thrusters nabs $1.8 million in West Slope investment gathering
Agile Space Industries is developing its A110 thrusters at its design and testing site adjacent to Durango-La Plata County Airport. The A110 thruster has been chosen to for use on the Griffin Lander. The lunar lander will have 12 A110 thrusters it will use to guide it to the South Pole of the moon. (Courtesy of Agile Space Industries)

Agile Space Industries, Durango’s maker of thrusters, the maneuvering engines for spacecraft, walked away from a gathering to pitch their companies before prospective investors as the top recipient of venture capital funding, bringing in $1.8 million in new funding.

The $1.8 million, came from Denver investment management company Greenline Ventures, which focuses on investing in underserved businesses and communities often overlooked by traditional venture capitalists.

The investment funding came July 16 in Grand Junction during the Greater Colorado Pitch Series, which brought together 100 startups and young companies to make online pitches to investment capital firms.

Of the 100 participants, Agile Space Industries outpaced its nearest rival in attracting capital. Agile’s CEO Jeffrey Max said the company that received the next highest funding attracted about $250,000 in investments.

“It’s almost like Christmas for us, because we weren’t planning to participate in this event,” Max said. “We decided to do so very much at the last minute. To, at the last minute, do a video and send it in, and to come away winning the way that we did was a terrific validation for the business and the team. It was great.”

The investment will finance expansion of Agile’s rocket engine testing facility, located adjacent to Durango-La Plata County Airport, and to buy equipment, mostly 3D printers that can print thrusters using exotic metallic alloys.

Agile Space Industries has expertise in using 3D printing in the design, development and manufacturing of thrusters.

Daudi Barnes, right, founder and president of Agile Space Industries, works with employees in 2018 at Agile’s facility near Durango-La Plata County Airport. Barnes, who worked to design engines on the Space Shuttle, funded Agile in Durango in 2009 as he looked to stay in the spacecraft design industry while escaping from the congestion, traffic and urban lifestyle of Southern California. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Use of 3D printing cuts the time needed to develop thrusters and makes it easier and cheaper to design and test upgrades to small engines used to maneuver spacecraft.

“Basically, we’re going to use the capital for infrastructure and equipment here in Durango to expand the operation, which means more jobs, more opportunities, more growth here, locally, in Durango,” Max said.

Initially, Greenline Ventures was set to invest $1 million in Agile Space Industries, but intrigued by Agile’s pitch video for the competition, Max said Greenline did further research about Agile and decided increase the investment to $1.8 million.

“Greenline reached out to us to get an even deeper more comprehensive view of the business,” Max said. “A lot of firms they invest with are smaller businesses with less experienced management teams. When they see the experience we have, and we’ve been selected for a moonshot by NASA, they know this is the real deal. This is legit.”

Agile Space Industries recently completed the critical design review for the 12 thrusters Agile is developing for the Griffin Lander, which is scheduled to deliver the VIPER, or the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, to the South Pole of the moon to look for water in the form of ice.

The VIPER is now scheduled to land on the South Pole of the moon in December 2022.

Max said the critical design review conducted by Astrobotic, maker of the Griffin Lander, showed the thrusters Agile is developing for the Griffin Lunar Lander outperformed the specifications for the little engines, and they came in on time and under budget, something Agile is particularly eager to achieve as it builds its name as a quality manufacturer for the growing space industry.

“We can show this approach to design, testing, development and manufacture really works, and we have a major NASA program we can point to and how we delivered higher performance on time and under budget,” he said.