Small satellite customers could soon be booking rides on new Australian rockets, as local VCs set their sights on the final frontier.
AUSTRALIA & SINGAPORE, SEPTEMBER 28, 2018 - Gilmour Space Technologies (https://www.gspacetech.com), a leading hybrid propulsion company in Queensland and Singapore, has raised AUD 19 million (SGD 19 million) to scale-up and launch its first commercial hybrid rocket to space in 2020.
The Series B investment round was led by top-tier venture capital firms in Australia: Main Sequence Ventures, which manages Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) innovation fund; and Blackbird Ventures, which led Gilmour Space’s AUD 5 million Series A round in May last year.
Other investors include US-based 500 Startups, who increased their stake from the Series A round; as well as new venture capital, family-office and private investors.
Small launch is a big problem
"The small satellite revolution is gaining momentum globally, with thousands of small satellites slated to launch into low-Earth orbits (LEO) over the next five years,” said the company's CEO and Founder, Adam Gilmour. However, he cautioned: "These new players will be challenged by high launch costs and limited launch opportunities."
To address this bottleneck, "Gilmour Space is developing a new breed of hybrid rockets that will offer dedicated LEO launches to small satellite customers at very competitive prices."
The company plans to launch Eris-100 in 2020, a three-stage commercial vehicle capable of launching 100 kilograms to LEO; followed by Eris-400 in 2021, a clustered-engine vehicle for payloads of up to 400 kilograms.
"I believe our progress so far puts us at a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of six, well ahead of most small launch competitors globally. The fact that we've come this far on relatively little funding is also a testament to our innovative engineering and low cost manufacturing capability," said Mr Gilmour.
“This round of investment will give us the safe runway we need to build and launch our first commercial hybrid rocket to orbit in 2020."
Private investors take the lead
Although space investments are comparatively new to investors in the Asia Pacific, they are starting to take notice.
According to lead investor Martin Duursma (pictured left), a partner at Sydney-based Main Sequence Ventures: "Gilmour Space is a great example of the rise of innovation in the Australian space industry.
"No longer is Australia only focussing on so-called downstream applications, but now with Gilmour will also have the capability of launching satellites for both commercial and national benefit. We are excited to support the company in its growth in Australia and beyond."
Blackbird co-founder, Rick Baker (pictured right), agreed: "This Queensland-based rocket company is well on its way to developing, building and launching a commercial orbital rocket for under AUD 30 million in capital raised. The result will be a low-cost rocket that is going to change the economics of small launch.”
Since January, Gilmour Space has achieved a number of key milestones: It completed a series of ground tests on its proprietary orbital-class hybrid rocket engine, generating a record 80 kilonewtons (18,000 pounds) of thrust; signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA (the first private company to do so in Australia); attracted two senior space veterans to its advisory board; and is preparing for a suborbital test flight in a few months' time.
Australia too is seeing the dawn of a New Space Age, with a newly established space agency, and key amendments in legislation that will enable domestic launches. “We are ready to take bold new steps to grow our space sector, and to provide jobs now and into the future,” said Australia’s Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Karen Andrews MP.
"This investment into Gilmour Space [through Main Sequence Ventures] is a great example of how the Australian Government is supporting cutting-edge innovation in Australia’s space industry.”
More rockets, more business
Ultimately, however, what customers want are reliable, timely and affordable launches that get their payloads to where they need it to be, said Mr Gilmour.
“With our new rockets and Australia's well-suited geography, we plan to build a commercial 'road' to space that will put Gilmour Space and Australia on the global space map."
Bookings for Eris orbital launches will be opening soon. Register to find out more: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gilmour Space Technologies is a private Australian rocket company that is developing new capabilities for launching small satellites into Low Earth Orbits. Founded by two brothers, this Queensland-based startup is now one of Australia’s leading space companies, pioneering new and innovative hybrid propulsion technologies that will accelerate humanity’s access to ‘All Orbits, All Planets’. Find out more at https://www.gspacetech.com/about.
Michelle Gilmour, Director of Communications
Email: email@example.com, Mob: +61 433 908 084