New technologies are being developed in Queensland that could see a next-generation hybrid rocket launch small satellites into low Earth orbits within two years.
Thanks to an Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship grant, University of Queensland (UQ) School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering researcher Dr Ingo Jahn will work with Gold Coast-based Gilmour Space on fuel feed systems and cycles for space launch vehicles.
“This is an excellent opportunity as it allows know-how and fundamental research conducted at UQ to be transferred to an application of national importance,” Jahn said.
“Seeing your research adopted into a product is the dream of every researcher and engineer — what could be better than seeing your research fly to the stars?”
Designing a fuel feed system is rocket science
The UQ team is working on developing and validating the fuel feed system, which Jahn described as one of the most complex engineering challenges for rockets.
“They are located at the intersection of multiple systems; to stay light they have to be incredibly power dense, they must operate across wide temperature and pressure ranges and they are safety critical,” he said.
“Finding effective and safe engineering solutions to meet all these requirements, while remaining light weight is the challenge we have to overcome.”
Opportunity for Australia’s space industry
Jahn said the opportunity for researchers to work closely with industry was invaluable to the development of Australia’s space industry.
“Rather than buying products from overseas, the rockets and components will be manufactured in Australia,” he said.
“This is an essential step towards developing a space launch vehicle industry in Queensland with many expected flow-down benefits to our manufacturing industries.”
Queensland Minister for State Development, Tourism and Innovation Kate Jones commended Jahn and Gilmour Space on their achievements.
“It is with commercial-oriented partnerships like these that we will foster close collaborations between our key industries and universities, leading to significant areas of growth for Queensland and Australia,” she said.
A feather in Gilmour’s cap
Gilmour Space also made headlines last month, with the company successfully completing a 45-second ‘hot fire’ of its upper-stage hybrid rocket engine.
“2020 has been a busy year for us as we continue to develop and test the various rocket systems in our orbital launch vehicle,” said Gilmour Space Chief Operating Officer and co-founder James Gilmour.
“We’re grateful to UQ and the government for supporting our efforts to grow a space launch industry here in Queensland.”