JOINT MEDIA RELEASE
SoMAC CRC launches with thermal protection project for space applications in Australia
AUSTRALIA, 27 June 2023 – Through the execution of its first ever project, the Sovereign Manufacturing Automation for Composites CRC (SoMAC CRC) could unveil a new cost-effective solution for protecting launch vehicles and spacecraft against extreme heat and pressure.
Space vehicles can experience temperatures exceeding 3000°C during launch and atmospheric re-entry. A common solution is to use carbon phenolic composites – a substance made of layers of carbon fibre fabric held together by a special plastic glue.
Being undertaken in partnership with Gilmour Space Technologies and The University of Queensland (UQ), SoMAC CRC’s inaugural project will see the science-backed development of cost-efficient, sovereign high-temperature materials using polymer-based ablative materials. UQ has been pioneering high temperature ceramic and polymer matrix composite applications in Australia for some time and is excited to be participating in this new space adventure.
“The Australian Space Technologies sector is in growth phase, with Gilmour Space leading the way in launch vehicles,” said Dr Michael Heitzmann, Co-Director for the Centre for Advanced Materials Processing and Manufacturing (AMPAM) at UQ. “Partnering with Gilmour Space and SoMAC CRC on this project is an exciting next step for us – and for the manufacturing industry – as we work together to make space technology more accessible and cost-competitive.”
“We look forward to working with SoMAC and UQ to develop, test, and commercialise these high temperature composite materials for our Eris launch vehicles, which aim to provide customers with reliable and cost-effective access to space,” added David Doyle, Gilmour Space’s Program Manager for Launch Vehicles.
Dr Steve Gower, SoMAC CRC CEO, is proud to be launching the research centre’s first project, the outputs from which could help drive the country’s manufacturing industry forward.
“SoMAC CRC is open for business, and this inaugural project is exemplary as an industry and research collaboration,” explained Steve. “Working together with partners Gilmour Space and UQ, we are seeking to resolve practical industry challenges, while simultaneously building workforce capability and capacity through Higher Degree by Research (HDR) training and industry placements. We are excited to have lift-off, and to start deploying our main mission – to position Australia as a future leader in composites technologies.”
About the Sovereign Manufacturing Automation for Composites Cooperative Research Centre (SoMAC CRC)
SoMAC CRC commenced operations in January 2023. Australia is entering a decade of transformation with the arrival of intelligent manufacturing automation and the emergence of new high-value industries. Bringing together 33 partners under a $250 million program, SoMAC CRC will address these opportunities and strengthen current industry with digital-export-ready, cost-competitive, high-quality platform capability. Its vision is to transform Australia’s established composite technologies capability into sovereign leadership, creating a world-class, highly automated, digitally enabled, network of designers, manufacturers, and service providers. In doing so, the CRC will underpin a next generation of manufacturing industry, supporting a forward-looking Australia, including the hydrogen economy, EV cars and buses, space and low-earth-orbit vehicles, onshore and offshore infrastructure, aircraft and the future defence industry, consumer goods including sporting and solar, and the recycling industry.
About Gilmour Space Technologies
Gilmour Space is an emerging Australian space prime that is developing and launching sovereign-made launch vehicles and satellites into low earth orbit from Australia in 2023/24.
About The University of Queensland (UQ)
UQ is applying its cutting-edge research and technology to build Australia’s advanced manufacturing base, develop the STEM workforce to meet sovereign space aspirations, improve environmental and socio-economic outcomes, and improve the health of astronauts at international space stations. Its excellence in high temperature matrix composite materials is boosted by integration with Queensland’s vibrant defence and aerospace community, characterised by innovative SMEs connected to global supply chains. The university has provided a significant portion of the world’s hypersonic expertise and continue to work closely with our partners in other disciplines, such as quantum communications for space, human habitation and health, earth observation and remote sensing.
About the CRC Program
The Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Program is an Australian Government initiative that was established in 1990 and funds industry-led collaborations between industry, researchers, and end users. The Program links researchers with industry and government with a focus towards research application. Innovation and Science Australia and its CRC Advisory Committee provide strategic oversight of the CRC Program.