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iLAuNCH recruits leaders

The Innovative Launch, Automation, Novel materials Communications and Hypersonics program, or iLAuNCH, at the University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ) has recruited former Director of the South Australia Space Industry Centre (SASIC), Darin Lovett, as Executive Director.

Mr Lovett will be joined at iLAuNCH by space specialist Dr Milica Symul in the role of Chief Operating Officer, and aerospace expert Dr Joni Sytsma as Chief Technology Officer. Dr Rosalind Dubs, who has held positions on the Space Industry Innovation Council and chair of the SmartSat CRC, will lead the advisory board.

The iLAuNCH program was announced in 2022 and is part-funded through the federal Department of Education’s Trailblazer Universities program. The organisation plans to invest $180 million over four years in industry research, commercialisation and manufacturing in order to grow Australia’s burgeoning space industry.

“We will achieve this through growing our commercially viable civil rockets, rocket test and launch facilities, rapid satellite manufacturing, communication technologies and integrated sensing systems,” says iLAuNCH on its web site.

The organisation has four principal objectives:

  • Research Commercialisation:Providing research commercialisation through IP translation for Australia’s sovereign rocket launch and payload manufacturing sector
  • Launch-Ready Manufacturing Ecosystem:Accelerating the transformation of this early stage or ‘low-mid TRL’ sector to a launch-ready manufacturing ecosystem with supporting supply chain
  • Space Commercialisation Model:Create a space commercialisation model that supports the current iLAuNCH activities and creates a legacy beyond the four years
  • Industry Skills Development:Co-design with industry the pathways for industry skills development through school and higher education initiatives

The Australian launch manufacturing sector – comprising the development of civil rockets, test capability and launch facilities – is essential for creating a sovereign Space Industry, says iLAuNCH. Without a launch capability it is arguable whether sovereign space capability really exists as Australian companies would need to rely on launch facilities in other countries to place their products into space.

Sovereign launch and associated facilities were viewed in the 2018 Space National Manufacturing Priority road map as “high risk activity” and therefore were considered as part of “Phase 3 – Delivering Success 2021-2028”. However, since 2018, there has been considerable progress in Australia’s launch providers and launch facilities with three active commercial launch sites established and several others being proposed.

Building a sovereign launch capability and its associated industrial and research and development ecosystem is critical to ensure the emerging payload technology manufacturers can access launch systems and capitalise on commercial opportunities, without competing with, or being dependent on, international space economies and launch facilities.

Australian launch and launch manufacturing companies are working on early stage and mid-TRL technologies. iLAuNCH is supporting these companies to accelerate to higher technology-readiness levels, build a complimentary supply chain and overcome commercialisation challenges. The development of the civil launch industry and associated supply chain is also of significant importance in supporting downstream activities in the related defence sector with sovereign guided weapon requirements.

Technology areas being addressed by iLAuNCH include:

  • Additive manufacturing
  • Automated composite manufacturing
  • High temperature materials manufacturing
  • High speed/pressure analysis and design
  • Rocket fuel manufacturing
  • Launch vehicle component design and testing
  • Static rocket test rig manufacturing
  • Launch site development
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