Gilmour Space Technologies, the Australian rocket company that is developing low-cost launch vehicles for the small satellite market — especially those developing telecommunications satellites, such as Aussie startup Fleet — has successfully achieved 70,000 newtons of thrust in what it says could be "the world’s largest successful test fire of a single-port hybrid rocket engine."
The Gold Coast-based rocket company, which has a subsidiary in Singapore, has so far raised A$5 million in Series-A funding from venture capital firms Blackbird Ventures and 500 Startups, among others. Gilmour Space has also been awarded various R&D grants in Singapore and Australia.
Now it says its "G-70" orbital-class rocket engine has achieved a new milestone.
“These results prove that we have the core technology needed to enable low-cost small satellite launches to space,” said the firm’s CEO and founder Adam Gilmour, in a statement.
The company’s mission is to carry payloads weighing up to 400 kg to low-earth orbit from 2020.
Unlike the vast majority of commercial rockets today, which use either solid- or liquid-fuelled engines, Gilmour Space is pioneering new hybrid-engine rockets that combine a liquid oxidiser with a proprietary multi-material 3D printed solid fuel.
It first successfully test launched a sub-scale rocket to an altitude of 5km using its 3D printed rocket fuel in Queensland in 2016.
“We chose hybrid rockets because they’re simpler, cheaper, environmentally greener and a lot less explosive than solid or liquid rockets,” said Gilmour. “But hybrids have been notoriously difficult to scale up, resulting in a relatively poor engine efficiency and performance,” he added.
With the recent test and its earlier ones, Gilmour Space says it has now demonstrated capability in what could be the largest (46 cm diameter) successful test fire of a single-port hybrid rocket engine.
Single port engines are believed to be the most fuel-efficient design for hybrid rockets, it said.
“This G-70 engine will be powering our next Australia-made rocket to the edge of space in the second quarter of 2018, subject to launch approvals in Australia,” said Mr Gilmour.