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Gilmour aims for sovereign defence satellite capability

Stephen Kuper
Gilmour aims for sovereign defence satellite capability

Queensland-based Gilmour Space Technologies has developed a hybrid rocket for the launch of satellites into low-Earth orbit that the company believes could support Defence’s pursuit of sovereign launch capabilities, with an aim to launch Defence satellites by 2021.

The rockets are currently used for commercial purposes and the company believes its motors have the right capability for a Defence application. Adam Gilmour, CEO and founder of Gilmour Space Technologies, said no defence force in the world currently uses tactical rapid response satellites, although the Americans are working on it.

"Sovereign launch capabilities will give Australian Defence greater self-reliance in space. With the rising risk of space warfare and space debris collisions, our own launch capabilities will allow us to quickly replace damaged or destroyed assets such as ISR, PNT – that is, positioning navigation and timing – communications and imaging satellites," Gilmour said. 

Gilmour aims to bring two low-cost launch systems for sub-orbital and orbital launches: the Ariel, which is scheduled for operation in the first quarter of 2019, and the Eris, which is scheduled for introduction in the fourth quarter of 2020.


Ariel provides sub-orbital launch capability with an estimated launch price of US$9,000 per kilogram, a max payload of 130 kilograms and altitude of up to 150 kilometres. Gilmour claims that the Ariel payload bay is 50 per cent larger than other sounding rockets and supports industry standard payload modules, which are recoverable with the optional installation of a parachute recovery system.

The Eris system provides orbital launch capacity (low-Earth orbit) with an estimated launch price of US$25,000-38,000 per kilogram depending on the payload mass, with a max payload of 400 kilograms. Eris is a three-stage launch system propelled by eight of the G-70 hybrid rocket engines developed by Gilmour Space Technologies.

Gilmour Space Technologies is currently designing a vehicle that could launch a number of satellites, including satellites similar to the Buccaneer, which was launched in 2017. Gilmour said the company plans to provide this capability in 2021.

CDIC business advisers helped Gilmour Space Technologies with guidance about the defence marketplace, technology control regulations and industry grant programs, and audited the business’ defence market preparedness.


"We knew that engaging with the CDIC, the advisers could provide the connections and advice we require to work with Defence, as well as assisting us with proposals and generally helping facilitate business," Gilmour said.

"It’s been fantastic to be able to talk to the CDIC when we come across issues. The government is doing a great job of linking industry with Defence. Since working with the CDIC we have become more professional and our systems more robust. We continue to make improvements and are aiming to work directly with Defence."

Gilmour Space Technologies has also submitted a Defence Innovation Hub proposal to send satellites into space on short notice.

Gilmour Space Technologies is a next-generation hybrid propulsion company that is developing low-cost launch vehicles for the small satellite market. Since obtaining its Series A funding mid-last year, the Queensland-based company has achieved a number of major milestones, including a Space Act Agreement with NASA and a successful 12-second, 75 kN thrust (16,900 lb) test-fire of its orbital rocket engine.

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