Australian rocket company Gilmour Space Technologies has signed its first local customer for the maiden launch of its Eris rocket in 2022. The company has been contracted to deliver a 35-kilogram spacecraft into orbit, the largest payload ever announced by an Australian company.
The launch will mark a significant historical milestone for the nation, as the first time an Australian payload has been launched on an Australian rocket from Australian. A lot has to go right between now and the 2022 launch date, not least being the need for a launch site to be prepared and ready.
Gilmour Space said on Wednesday it had signed a contract with stealth-mode startup Space Machines Company (SMC) for the launch. SMC is developing an in-space transportation capability which it says “will exponentially transform access and commercialisation of space.”
The SMC capability aims to provide a service cost-effectively insert small satellites into desired low earth orbits (LEO), geostationary earth orbits (GEO) and Cis-Lunar (Moon) orbits with reusable in-space infrastructure.
“This could well be the first Australian payload to be launched to orbit on an Australian rocket, from an Australian launch site,” Gilmour Space co-founder and chief executive Adam Gilmour said.
Gilmour Space is a Queensland-based VC backed company with investors that include Blackbird Ventures, Main Sequence Ventures and 500 Startups. The company is is building new hybrid rockets targeting the world’s growing demand for small rocket launches.
“We are delighted to be supporting Gilmour’s first commercial flight and being part of this important milestone in the development of Australia’s space industry,” Space Machines Company co-founder and chief executive Rajat Kulshrestha said.
More details about SMC and its in-space transportation service will be announced in the coming months, however, Mr Kulshrestha said. “At 35 kg, this will be one of the largest spacecraft developed and tested by an Australian space company.”
Despite being a late entrant into the commercial space market, Australia’s pace of growth has accelerated in recent years with the emergence of smaller, more agile commercial players looking to tap into the $500 billion-a-year global space economy.
“Startups like Space Machines Company are gearing up to launch their innovative new products and services to market. But getting to space is still a big challenge for small-payload customers, particularly if they need access to specific orbits or inclinations,” said Mr Gilmour.
To meet this global demand, Gilmour Space’s first Eris rockets will launch payloads up to 305 kg into low earth orbits – 215 kg into 500 kilometres sun synchronous orbits or 305 kg into 500 km equatorial orbits.
“We’ve closed two commercial launch contracts in the last few months, and are targeting 12 rockets a year by 2025,” he added. “It’s clear to us that the Australian space industry is ready for launch.”
Mr Gilmour told InnovationAus last month that the company was on target in its preparations for the commercial launch and was planning to conduct another capital raise by the end of the year.
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