Test demonstrates technology that could power CubeSats on future interplanetary missions. Large engine firing & flight tests expected by yearend.
Australia & Singapore, Aug 2, 2017 – Homegrown rocket company Gilmour Space Technologies has successfully completed the first of four rocket motor tests for its Cubesat In-Space Propulsion System.
The announcement comes two months after the company raised AUD 5 million (USD 3.7 million) in private funding from Blackbird Ventures and 500 Startups to develop and launch its low-cost rockets for the global small satellite industry.
“This was our first test of a mini hybrid-propulsion engine, which could potentially send a 1U CubeSat from Earth’s orbit to that of other moons or planets in the solar system,” said its CEO & Founder, Adam Gilmour. A 1U (or 1 ‘unit’) CubeSat is a standard-sized satellite measuring just 10x10x10cm that could one day be deployed on a multitude of deep-space scientific or exploratory missions.
“It was also a test of our core rocket technology using hydrogen peroxide and proprietary 3D printed fuels,” he added. “And it looks like we’re on track to testing and flying our large rocket motor by the end of the year.”
Highlights from mini test fire:
* Stable ‘shock diamond’ pattern visible in the engine’s supersonic exhaust
* 1,800 Newtons of thrust
* Estimated total delta-V at over 4 km/s
Enabling Deep Space Missions
“Initial results from this test suggest that our mini hybrid system could produce sufficient delta-V (or change in velocity) for a 1U CubeSat in Low Earth Orbit to accelerate and then ‘slingshot’ itself, using the Earth’s gravity well, to the Moon or even Mars,” explained Mr. Gilmour.
This so-called Oberth manoeuvre is currently beyond the capability of most CubeSat propulsion systems in use today. “It’s something that the European Space Agency might want to consider it for their Mars sample return missions, for example.”
"Our hybrid system is comparatively non-toxic and non-explosive," he added, "which would make these interplanetary CubeSat missions orders of magnitude less expensive and risky than many current designs." The company is currently in the design phase of a similar propulsion system for small satellites up to 20 kg.
Don't have a need to go beyond Earth’s orbit? “You could use this system within Low Earth Orbit to power lower delta-V manoeuvres for larger nano/micro-satellites weighing 2-20 kg. It’s really up to your imagination what you could do with this new technology.”
Director, Marketing & Communications