Gold Coast startup one step closer to launching its satellites into space
Written on the 6 March 2018 by David Simmons
With the success of its latest rocket engine test, Gilmour Space Technologies is inching closer to launching low-cost small satellites into space.
The Gold Coast-based space startup's latest achievement puts Gilmour Space two-years closer to its ultimate ambition of launching low-cost small satellites into space.
The latest rocket test saw Gilmour Space achieve 70,000 newtons (or 15,700 pounds-force) of thrust in what could be the world's largest successful test fire of a single-port hybrid engine.
In layman's terms, Adam Gilmour, CEO and founder of Gilmour Space Technologies, says one of the toughest technology risks is now off the table.
"Developing a rocket engine generally takes around 40 per cent of the research and development cost of developing an entire launch vehicle," says Gilmour.
"It's normally something that takes a really long time with a lot of people and a lot of money, and we've done it in 18 months with not a lot of people and not a lot of money."
Effectively, this latest development means the team has successfully created the engine for the rocket, meaning it should be able to take off into space to deploy the satellites.
"These test results prove that we have the core technology needed to enable low-cost small satellite launches to space," says Gilmour.
The company's ultimate mission is to carry the satellites, weighing in total 400 kg, to low earth orbit from 2020.
Unlike most commercial rockets available today, which use either solid- or liquid-fuelled engines, Gilmour Space is developing new hybrid-engine rockets that combine a liquid oxidiser with a proprietary multi-material 3D printed solid fuel.
The company made headlines in 2016 when it successfully launched a smaller rocket to an altitude of 5km using its 3D printed rocket fuel.
Gilmour says this new technology is not only safer for those involved in the project, but its environmentally friendly too.
"We chose hybrid rockets because they're simpler, cheaper, environmentally greener and a lot less explosive than solid or liquid rockets," says Gilmour.
This latest news follows last month's announcement that Gilmour Space signed an agreement with NASA to collaborate on various space research and technology development initiatives which Gilmour says will prove to be valuable to the company.
"It's [the NASA agreement] a very broad agreement as it lets us work with NASA on lots of different technologies from launch vehicles to propulsion to life support systems to education," says Gilmour.
Gilmour Space joins a number of Australian and international entrepreneurs all vying for a slice of the lucrative space-technology sector like Elon Musk's SpaceX and Adelaide's very own Fleet Space.
Gilmour says this rejuvenated interest and birth of a new space race led by startups and companies rather than governments was the result of people realising how accessible the industry could be.
"I think it's [the renewed interest in space] the realisation from people out of the industry that it doesn't have to be so expensive," says Gilmour.
"I think Elon came in and had a look at the market and couldn't figure our why a rocket was so expensive and thought that he could make one a lot cheaper, which he's done, and we came up with the same philosophy."
Business News Australia
Author: David Simmons