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Gilmour to develop and launch sovereign surveillance satellite, completes successful rocket engine test

Queensland-based Gilmour Space Technologies has been selected to develop and launch a new sovereign surveillance satellite in a $15 million partnership deal. This forms part of the Australian Government’s $7billion investment in new military space capabilities.

“Defence is aiming to launch a satellite prototype in conjunction with Gilmour Space by mid-2023,” Defence Minister Peter Dutton said.

The company has also completed a successful mission duration test of a new 3D printed liquid-fuelled rocket engine, dubbed Phoenix, which will power the third stage of its Eris rocket.

Announcing Defence’s partnership with the Gold Coast company, Minister Dutton added the investment was a demonstration of the Australian Government’s commitment to developing sovereign space capabilities.

“In line with our recently released Defence Space Strategy, Defence is closely engaged with the Australian Space Agency and Australian industry to develop and supply sovereign space surveillance and mission system capabilities,” Minister Dutton said.

“I am proud to announce this $15 million investment in new military space capabilities to counter threats and assure our continued access to space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).”

Defence first established a partnership with Gilmour Space in 2020 to jointly develop defence-related space technologies, particularly rocket motor-system components. Since that time, Defence and Gilmour Space have been testing materials and propulsion technologies with a view to developing a hybrid rocket to launch payloads and small satellites.

The successful 190-second Mission Duration (or Mission Duty Cycle) test firing of its new regeneratively-cooled liquid rocket engine, burning a mix of liquid oxygen (LOx) and Kerosene, demonstrates sovereign capability, says Mr Gilmour. Liquid rocket engines are used by most rocket companies around the world, including SpaceX, and are notoriously complex and expensive to develop.

“With this key test, we’re proud to say that Gilmour Space has demonstrated sovereign capability in not one but two rocket systems,” he said.

“The team has done exceptionally well to design, build, and test this new engine in just over a year while also scaling our main hybrid rocket engine, building out the rest of the vehicle, and pushing to develop a new orbital launch site in Australia,” he added.

Eris is a three-stage rocket being developed by Gilmour Space for launching small satellites into low earth orbits. Its maiden launch is targeted to be at the end of this year from the Bowen Orbital Spaceport in north Queensland, pending regulatory and other approvals.

“The first and second stages of Eris will be powered by Sirius, our large hybrid rocket engine which is undergoing qualification tests,” said Gilmour Space CEO, Adam Gilmour.

“The third stage of Eris will be powered by this new 3D printed liquid rocket engine, called Phoenix, which we developed to give us the extra performance needed to deliver substantially more payload to orbit.”

Founded nine years ago as a startup, Gilmour Space Technologies now employs 140 personnel with skills in manufacturing, engineering and support.

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