Australia prepares for space race with a hybrid rocket for low-Earth orbit flight

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visits Gilmour Space Technologies on the Gold Coast. © Darren England/AAP PHOTOS

Australia is just months away from joining the satellite-launching space race after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Wednesday unveiled the country’s first homegrown rocket designed to enter orbit.

The launch vehicle, created by Gold Coast firm Gilmour Space Technologies, will lift off from a north Queensland base later this year and be used to deliver payloads of up to 4000kg into low-Earth orbit.

Gilmour Space Technologies chief executive and founder Adam Gilmour said a successful flight could make Australia one of only a few nations able to build and launch rockets into orbit.

“What you’re looking at is the first orbital vehicle that’s ever been designed and built in Australia,” he said.

“It’s critical technology – only 11 nations on the planet have orbital vehicles. When we go to space, we will be the 12th.”

The locally built rocket, dubbed Eris, will also be one of the first orbital vehicles to rely on hybrid technology that combines solid and liquid propellants and is thought to be cheaper and safer conventional propulsion.

Visiting its Helensvale factory, Mr Albanese unveiled the rocket and signed the inside of its shell, congratulating the team on its future “lift-off”.

He said the rocket’s creation showed Australian businesses were capable of manufacturing world-class innovations.

“Australia can compete with the rest of the world. What we need to do is to back our businesses that are doing it,” he said.

“What the Gilmours have done here is take a risk with their investment that they made in a start-up that’s now attracting capital and attracting support. It’s an example of Australian innovation.”

Mr Albanese said the government would seek to support further innovation in sectors such as space, defence and critical minerals as part of its forthcoming $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund.

Australia’s space industry is estimated to employ 10,000 people and generates up to $4b revenue each year.

The Australian Space Agency, established in 2018, aims to triple its contribution to $12b and create 20,000 additional jobs in the industry by 2030.

Mr Gilmour said business and government backing would be vital to support the country’s growing space innovations.

“Australia must have its own sovereign launch and satellite technologies if we are serious about growing our capabilities in defence, communications and advanced manufacturing,” he said.

The Gold Coast company is expected to test its Eris rocket later this year from the Bowen Orbital Spaceport, which is in the final stages of construction.

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