Gilmour Space set for Australia’s first rocket launch in April 2023

The Eris rocket developed by Australian company Gilmour Space will be the first Australian system to go into orbit if it is successfully launched next year.


20 November 2022

The Eris rocket under construction

Gilmour Space

Australian company Gilmour Space has nearly finished building a rocket that it will attempt to launch into space in April 2023. If successful, it will be Australia’s first homegrown orbital spacecraft.

“Space [technology] it’s one of the key enablers of society – it’s good for a nation to have access to space capability if it can,” says Adam Gilmour, a longtime space enthusiast who co-founded the company after working in banking for 20 years. .

The rocket, called Eris, will have a height of 23 meters and a weight of more than 30 tons. It will be powered by four hybrid engines that contain a solid fuel and a liquid oxidizer.

A final test conducted in early November found that each engine could generate 115 kilonewtons of thrust, “enough to pick up three or four SUVs.” [sports utility vehicles] each one,” says Gilmour.

The company expects to finish construction of Eris in March and is planning a test launch from a site near Bowen in north Queensland in April.

The rocket will be equipped with a light satellite and will aim to enter low-Earth orbit.

“We’re confident it will get off the pad, but no first launch vehicle from a new company has ever gone into space successfully on the first try,” says Gilmour. “What usually happens is that the second works, so we’re building two of them so we can learn from the first and succeed with the second,” he says.

If the launch is successful, Australia will become the 12th country in the world to send one of its own orbital rockets into space, joining the US, UK, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, France, Israel and India. and Iran.

Most of the funding for the project comes from venture capital, with the Australian government contributing a small amount.

rocket engine test

A test of the rocket engine

Gilmour Space

Following a successful launch, Gilmour Space plans to build larger rockets that will be able to carry payloads of up to 1,000 kilograms into low orbit. This would allow it to launch satellites for the Australian government and private companies for use in mining, agriculture, communications, defence, Earth observation and other areas.

“We have been using rockets from other countries for the last 50 years, but there are a lot of restrictions,” says Gilmour. “If you have an Australian launch vehicle, then if you’re an Australian company or the government, you basically have unrestricted access,” he says.

Aude Vignelles, chief technology officer for the Australian Space Agency, says having space capabilities would boost Australia’s national well-being. “Australia’s geographical advantages and political stability [also] become an attractive destination for launch activities,” he says.

If Eris makes it to orbit successfully, it will be the first rocket with hybrid engines to do so, Vignelles says. Most rocket engines contain fuels and oxidizers that are either solid or liquid, as they tend to be more powerful. But several companies are developing hybrid engines that have one component in solid form and the other in liquid form, as they have the potential to be safer, simpler and more economical.

Gilmour Space also has ambitions to build rockets that can carry astronauts by 2026.

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