The company leading Australia’s drive toward a sovereign launch capability, Gilmour Space, has signed the first of a series of research partnerships with the University of Queensland to drive new tech for its Australian-made rocket.
An Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellow grant has been awarded to lead researcher Dr Ingo Jahn from the UQ School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering to work with Gilmour Space on fuel feed systems and cycles for space launch vehicles.
The partnership leverages preliminary work funded by the federal Innovation Connections program. It is the first of several research collaborations between Gilmour and UQ expected to be entered in the next year.
“Turbo pumps are a new technology for us and we can benefit from research expertise that exists at UQ,” Gilmour Space chief executive Adam Gilmour told InnovationAus.
The research and development behind the launch vehicle had not been affected by the COVID-19 health crisis and the company remained on target for its first commercial launch in 2022.
The one area of concern related to an expected softening of the investment market in the next 12 months, potentially making it more difficult to raise a further round of funding, Mr Gilmour said.
Gilmour Space is hoping the Australian Space Agency will help to fill that gap by releasing grants via its International Space Investment initiative or funds committed through the Australian Government commitment to the Artemis lunar program with NASA.
“It’s not big bucks [under those two programs], but it would make a huge difference,” Mr Gilmour said.
UQ’s Dr Jahn said Gilmour Space was pioneering the development of next-generation hybrid rocket technologies that were safer and more cost-effective than traditional chemical-propulsion rockets.
“It is a significant undertaking that involves many different systems, including the fuel feed system which controls the supply of oxidiser to the rocket engine.”
Advance Queensland’s Industry Research Fellow grant would fund another PhD researcher from UQ for three years, providing a rare opportunity for knowledge transfer and on-the-job training with a leading space company.
Queensland Innovation Minister Kate Jones said “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.”