Gilmour Space Technologies says its Bowen Orbital Spaceport facility has largely escaped any damage from tropical cyclone Kirrily, which is wreaking havoc in parts of Queensland, and would not cause any material delay to the maiden launch of its Eris rocket.
Cyclone Kirrily is the second cyclone to blow through in the past two months, and while the storms had delayed delivery of some parts and equipment from local suppliers, the Gilmour team say they remain on track for a launch in late March or very early April.
The company had packed up the BOS site ahead of the cyclone, with the Eris’ component stages housed in its purpose-built cyclone-proof integration facility.
Some staff were relocated to Mackay as a precaution, where they worked from hot desks provided by the Resources Centre of Excellence.
“Since our last update [two weeks ago] we’ve had Cyclone Kirrily, but it didn’t pass through Bowen so we were quite fortunate not to be impacted,” Gilmour Space Technologies’ director of communications Michelle Gilmour said.
“Ultimately, I think the storm costs us just a few days of work, so we were lucky,” she said. “But we’re back, we’re back at the BOS (Bowen Orbital Spaceport), and there is a lot of work that we’re getting on with.”
Right now, the company is completing work on its hold-down table and transport erector, and will be conducting tests on this equipment in the coming days.
As the name suggests, this equipment transports the rocket from the integration facility to the launch pad and tower and moves it from the horizontal to vertical position. With its integrated hold-down-table, this is quite a complex piece of infrastructure with many moving parts.
The company has taken delivery of the hold-down table, built by a local manufacturer near Bowen to a Gilmour design. This piece of equipment had been delayed.
“As the name implies, that’s the piece that you know holds the rocket down in the seconds before launch,” Michelle Gilmour said. “So that’s quite an important piece of equipment.”
“And then over the next two weeks, we’re going to be doing a lot more testing, including – hopefully – a test of the launch vehicle fluid systems.”
“So, there is lots and lots of work to do. We’re still pushing for a launch in late March or April, if testing goes well and if we receive approvals from the [Australian] Space Agency soon.”
There are currently 30 to 40 Gilmour staff at the Bowen Orbital Spaceport facility, a 50/50 mix of engineers and technicians.
The company has implemented a deployment schedule for staff to fly up to the BOS and back to the Gold Coast.
“They take it in turns, because when you’re at Bowen, the work is pretty hectic. There is just a lot to do,” Ms Gilmour said.
The company waiting on a launch facility licence and a launch permit from the Australian Space Agency which it hopes to get early this month in order to facilitate the late March/early April launch target date.
In the meantime, the company has conducted internal competitions to name the vehicles at the Bowen Space Port – a fire truck and a transport erector tug (a small powerful vehicle like those at airports used to push large aircraft from the boarding gates).
While the tug unsurprisingly attracted name suggestions like Tuggy McTugface, it was given the more conservative name of Te-Tug (for Transport erector tug).
The Fire Truck was given was named Red Five, a Star Wars reference (“Red Five standing by” is a Luke Skywalker line in the original Star Wars).
InnovationAus.com has been following the progress toward the maiden test-flight of the Gilmour Space Technologies’ Eris vehicle closely.
We will be providing updates between now and launch day – and beyond, as Gilmour attempts to become the latest in a tiny handful of private companies that have successfully built a rocket that reaches orbit.
Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.