A Gold Coast-based rocket manufacturer has partnered with Griffith University with the aim of launching a new class of Australian-made satellite into orbit by early 2023.
- A rocket company and a university have announced a plan to design and build Australia’s largest satellite
- Demand for better tertiary education programs for students seeking employment in space-related industries is growing
- A developer of technology used in NASA’s Mars missions says Australia has to play a role in the exploration of space
The five-year agreement will see Gilmour Space Technologies and Griffith researchers develop and build a 100-kilogram prototype that will orbit 500 kilometres above Earth.
Chief executive Adam Gilmour said the satellite would act like a “chassis”.
“Customers will be able to put their own payload — which is generally a sensor or a communication package — into it,” he said.
Mr Gilmour said the satellites would be designed with multiple applications in mind, including the observation of natural disasters and weather, mining, urban planning, thermal imaging, and communication.
From ‘shoebox’ to ‘fridge’
Mr Gilmour said Australian-made satellites were traditionally “the size of a shoebox”.
“That’s really lacking — that capability in Australia to make these bigger satellites that the rest of the world is using,” he said.
Griffith University professor Paulo de Souza, who built sensors used on NASA’s Mars Rovers in 2003, said unless Australia developed more sophisticated satellites, “we’ll always be reliant on other nations to provide us communications, to provide us with images”.
“It’s vital — there will be so much investment in space over the next decades,” Dr de Souza said.
“From advanced manufacturing, electronics, engineering, software development for satellites, and also image processing — it is just endless.”
Search for graduates
The partnership will also see Griffith University develop focused programs for students seeking employment in Australia’s emerging space industry.
Mr Gilmour said finding well-trained graduates in the domestic industry had been “challenging”.
“We don’t really find graduates that can hit the ground running — we have to get them into the company and spend six to 12 months training them up,” he said.
“With Griffith, we can get people to a stage where, by the time they start in our company, they’ve already got some good experience doing design and build work on rockets and satellites.”
Dr de Souza said research into the manufacture of light-weight alloys would be undertaken.
He said students would also learn to develop “the soul of the satellite”.
“All the software, all the programs,” Dr de Souza said.
“Everything you need to implement to make sure the satellite will work, will communicate back to Earth.”
‘Go-kart vs Formula 1’
Gilmour Space Technologies successfully launched a sub-orbital rocket in 2016.
Mr Gilmour said the company was aiming to conduct its first full orbital launch in 2022.
“There is a mammoth difference between a sub-orbital launch and an orbital launch,” he said.
“It’s almost like the difference between a go-kart and a Formula 1 race car.”
Dr de Souza said developing a mature space industry was “a role we had to play” and could lead to collaborations with other countries.
“We are always planning about what we can do and how can we explore the depth of the universe,” he said.
This Article firstly Publish on www.abc.net.au