Gold Coast-based rocket startup Gilmour Space Technologies has signed its first European partnership agreement with German outfit Exolaunch, a provider of rideshare launch, deployment and in-space transportation services for small satellites.
Under a series of agreements made public on Tuesday, the companies will join forces to sell a full suite of launch and deployment services to a growing number of small satellite operators using the Gilmour designed and built Eris launch vehicle.
Exolaunch was founded by scientists and engineers for the Department of Space Technology at the Technical University of Berlin in 2010, delivering its first “rideshare cluster” of small satellites in orbit in 2013. Since then, its flight heritage counts 13 accomplished launches that successfully deployed 170 small satellites – with a similar number of contracted satellites to be launched in the near future.
The Exolaunch deployments so far have used a mix of launch vehicles, from Space X’ Falcon 9, to Russian Soyez-2 and RocketLabs’ Electron rocket, with missions carried out from the Kennedy, Space Centre Cape Canaveral, the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, and the Guiana Space Centre.
The company is best known for its ecosystem of proprietary small satellite deployment technologies, including CarboNIX, a lightweight, scalable and shock-free microsatellite separation system and EXOpod, a cutting-edge cubesat deployer.
Exolaunch is also developing a line of environmentally friendly orbital transfer vehicles called Reliant for satellite last-mile delivery and space debris removal. Reliant is expected to become available for commercial use starting in 2023.
The Exolaunch agreement with Gilmour Space Technologies is interesting because it demonstrates global demand for Australian launch vehicles, and increases the orbital options for global players through southern hemisphere launches from Australia.
Whilst Gilmour Space has said it is open to launching Eris vehicles offshore, the company says it is good to see strong interest for its Australian launches – from Abbot Point in Queensland for low- to mid-inclination orbits, and from Whalers Way in South Australia for polar orbits.
“The need for sovereign launch capability is coming into focus for Australia. However, space is a global industry and we’re proud to be working with leading companies like Exolaunch to expand our launch services to global customers,” said Gilmour Space co-founder and chief executive Adam Gilmour.
Gilmour Space has secured a total of US$64 million from global investors to date, the largest private equity investment raised by a space company in Australia. The company’s Eris launch vehicle is scheduled for a debut commercial launch in 2022.
A family of Eris launch vehicles will ultimately enable launch capacity within the range of 300-4000 kg to low Earth orbits from Australian and international launch sites.
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