"Results exceed that of nearest small satellite launch competitors; 'More' expected from the rocket company's full-pressure, full-duration tests later this month.
JANUARY 4, 2018 -- Australia and Singapore-based rocket company, Gilmour Space Technologies (www.gspacetech.com), has fired up the first of its full-scale orbital engine tests in a staged program to launch small satellites to space by 2020.
“We conducted two successful engine tests in December, one of which was a low pressure test-fire that generated 45 kilonewtons (over 10,100 pounds-force) of thrust,” said its CEO and Founder, Adam Gilmour.
“This is significantly more thrust than some of our small satellite launch competitors’ main engines, and we expect to do much better in our full-pressure and full-duration test firings later this month."
Since closing AUD 5 million (USD 3.7 million) in Series-A funding in mid 2017, the Queensland-based startup has been scaling up to offer low-cost launches to a growing number of small satellite players capitalising on 'New Space' or 'Space 2.0' -- from 24/7 constellation-based earth observation and communications, to satellite servicing, space mining and the Internet of Things.
Unlike most commercial rockets today that use either solid- or liquid-fuelled engines, Gilmour Space is pioneering a new breed of cheaper, safer and greener hybrid-engine rockets that combine a liquid oxidiser with a proprietary solid fuel that overcomes long-standing performance issues with traditional hybrid rockets.
In November, the company completed tests of its high-thrust 'interplanetary' CubeSat Propulsion System, which could be used to power cube-sized satellites or spacecraft to the orbit of the Moon or Mars; and in December, began ground tests of its orbital-class rocket engine.
“We started with a full-flow, mono-propellant thruster hot fire of our large catalyst pack," said Mr Gilmour. "This is a critical subsystem of our main orbital engine, and it efficiently decomposed our Hydrogen Peroxide oxidiser at a core temperature well above the ignition temperature of our fuel."
The second short-duration, low-pressure, full-flow engine test (video) further verified all critical subsystems of the orbital engine. “There was almost instant ignition in our large-diameter (46 cm) single port motor, and we generated over 45 kN of thrust,” he added. That's enough force to lift two SUVs off the ground.
“These are big achievements in hybrid rocket technology and a big leap for Australia's New Space industry,” said Mr Gilmour, whose team is targeting to launch a suborbital test rocket from Australia in the second quarter of 2018, subject to regulatory approvals.
"Despite a growing number of rocket companies and startups look to enter the small launch market today, it is notable that only a handful have progressed to actually building, testing and launching a rocket that demonstrates their technology.”
“Gilmour Space is doing it; and if all goes well, our new engine could well be the largest and most powerful privately-funded hybrid rocket engine in the world."
Watch this space.
Director, Marketing & Communications