spaceconnect logo

Space Agency worried our rocket could hit a ship, says Gilmour

The founder of Gilmour has blamed the Australian Space Agency for his firm’s failure to launch its first rocket, quipping that regulators are asking questions “you wouldn’t believe”.

Speaking at the AFR’s Entrepreneur Summit, Adam Gilmour argued the delay from its target launch date in April was “more them than us” and even suggested officials were concerned its Eris launch vehicle could hit a passing ship.

“Like, what if a cruise ship comes out of Hawaii and goes in the path of the rocket as it’s going up [from the North Queensland coast]? And how are we not going to hit the International Space Station?” he said.

The criticism comes despite Gilmour receiving millions in grants, including $52 million from the federal government to lead a space manufacturing network in Australia.


Gilmour has been developing its three-stage launch vehicle for eight years and hopes to address a gap in the global market for small satellite launch providers.

The first blast-off will be a significant moment for the local industry, as Eris is the first Australian-designed and manufactured orbital rocket.

The business had been targeting a launch in April but can’t attempt a lift-off without approval from the Australian Space Agency.

“We’ve got our main engineers answering all these questions and writing all these papers; instead of designing the next rocket, they’re doing this,” he said.


“Regulation definitely kills innovation. The government is extremely risk-averse, even in the power market. People are talking about clean energy, but it takes two years to get a wind turbine approved or 18 months to get a solar farm approved.

“It’s taken us almost two years to get our first rocket launch approved. That is crazy.”

However, Gilmour added that he is optimistic that the problems will be a “one-off” and that regulators will be more comfortable after the first launch.

The Australian Space Agency told Space Connect in response that it is working closely with Gilmour to satisfy the requirements of the Space Launch and Returns Act.

“The Act aims to assure the probability of a launch causing substantial harm to public health, public safety or substantial damage to property is as low as is reasonably practicable,” a spokesperson said.

“The Act also takes into consideration the environment, Australia’s security, defence and international relations.”

Space Connect previously reported how Gilmour believes the first launch is unlikely to take place before mid-July.

When a permit is eventually granted, the company will then have to wait an extra 30 days while the Space Agency notifies domestic and foreign governments of the impending launch.

The wait comes despite Gilmour already lifting Eris into a vertical position and its Bowen Orbital Spaceport in North Queensland being granted its own separate licence to operate earlier this year.

The company already employs more than 100 people and hopes to increase its headcount to more than 300 by mid-2027.

It’s also one of several businesses in Australia building spaceports for its own or clients’ rockets. Gilmour faces competition from ELA’s Arnhem Space Centre in the Northern Territory and Southern Launch’s Orbital Launch Complex in Southern Australia.

Adam Gilmour previously said the first launch is unlikely to fully achieve its mission objective of passing over the Coral Sea and entering low-Earth orbit.

“The first attempts at launches, they’ve always failed, so history is not on our side, and we do expect something will go wrong,” he told the ABC.

“Our technology is quite benign in terms of explosive potential, but there’s still a risk whenever you’ve got a lot of pressure in a tank. If it explodes, things fly out a long way.”

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

Receive the latest developments and updates on Australia’s space industry direct to your inbox. Subscribe today to Space Connect here.

Receive the latest developments and updates on Australia’s space industry direct to your inbox. Subscribe today to Space Connect.