Space

SpaceX and Blue Origin's future competitor builds a rocket in the garage

Along the northeastern edge of Australia. Quietthe ocean is bordered by glittering yellow sand. These pristine 56 kilometers of coastline are known as the Gold Coast, and more than 13 million people visit them every year. It is full of perfect beaches for postcards and theme parks. Thirty minutes to the north of it, they are building the most powerful hybrid rocket in the country. Agree, not the place where it would be worth looking for.

And yet, Gilmour Space Technologies - a brave start-up in a new space race - set itself the mission to send a powerful hybrid rocket to the final frontier, into space.

Gilmour Space Technologies is building a hybrid rocket

In one of the corners of the company's improvised hangar on rollers, there is a rocket nine meters long, shaped like a bullet and covered with a sticky film.

This test rocket was the culminationfour years of research, one test launch and five successful ground tests of the company's own innovative rocket engine. The team called it One Vision, in honor of the song Queen, and its first flight, which was originally planned in April, but was postponed several times, has one goal: to deliver Gilmour to space.

While billionaires, entrepreneurs likeIlona Mask (SpaceX) and Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin) are pushing the boundaries of human space flight and space exploration, a legion of small private startups around the world are developing their own rocket technologies to launch lighter payloads into orbit. This new era of private space exploration, called the “New Cosmos”, led to the fact that the satellites turned from bulky hippopotamuses the size of a bus into boxes with chips and solar panels the size of a toaster.

And this gives courageous private space startups like Gilmour the opportunity to get into space.

"In the world there are many companies operatingover the constellations of small satellites, and we want to bring them into space, ”explains Adam Gilmore, a straightforward banker who became the CEO of a private space company.

Gilmore wants to find his niche in fasta growing industry that affects almost all aspects of our life. This is a huge task for the former banker and several engineers working in the country, which until 2018 did not even have a space agency. The first launch of One Vision will mark the future of the company, but failure can be a costly blow to the company's high ambitions.

SpaceX outlined a plan for delivering people to the moon in general terms, but the new space race is focused on targets that are much closer to home.

It's been 50 years since people firstlanded on the moon, and companies such as SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin outlined ways to get people off our planet to travel through the upper atmosphere and go further into space. NASA is exploring the most distant worlds that we have ever seen, and hopes to put people on Mars; The European Space Agency is preparing the next generation telescope to hunt exoplanets; China will land two moon rovers on the moon in one year.

New space race begins and without participationmajor players. Small private startups are trying to colonize space with the help of miniature satellites - cubsats (CubeSat) - to provide everything that is possible, from telecommunication support to biological research. They reduced the cost of satellites and the private sector accepted this, which led to business growth.

"It grows because it all becomesaffordable, ”says Russell Beuys, head of the department of space technology at the University of New South Wales in Canberra. "In some parts of the world there are schools that have their own satellites in orbit."

Kubsat designed to weigh less1.4 kg, which makes them cheaper to produce and small enough to accommodate small and inexpensive rockets in the compartment of payloads, rather than huge ones developed by SpaceX or Arianespace. For example, you can deploy more than 22,700 kg of payload in low Earth orbit using SpaceX Falcon 9, but it will cost $ 62 million - and you cannot choose your own orbit or time of departure.

This is where Gilmour Space Technologies comes in handy.

Gilmour Space Technologies plans to offerlaunches of small satellites for less than $ 40,000 per kilogram. They can put low-cost, small satellites cheaply - and with greater frequency - into orbit. In this new space race, where companies plan to launch constellations from hundreds of satellites into space, Gilmour Space Technologies will have a great opportunity to make money. It could become like Uber for space, allowing companies to book trips into orbit.

Build a rocket is incredibly difficult. Dozens of space flight companies are under development, showing promising patented engines and prospects, but that’s where their success story ends.

Private American Space CompanyRocketLab is one example of such success. In January 2018, she launched her first Electron rocket from New Zealand. Since then, the company has launched satellites into orbit for clients such as Spire Global, Fleet Space Technologies, NASA, and even the US Department of Defense.

Other companies are in deep phase.development, but Gilmore suggests that they may have started the design process too soon, creating rockets that would end up too small and therefore less cost-effective.

"Our size is a little bigger, so we canbring satellites OneWeb, SpaceX (Starlink) and TeleSat, and any other vehicles that are now being assembled and constructed, into low-Earth orbit, ”he says.

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He hopes that the Gilbour team, in whichmore than 30 designers and engineers will give the company a competitive advantage in a booming market. Without the support of the national space agency, Australia would have been in some cosmic dark age. It would have been difficult for Gilmore to realize his ideas, not to mention the missiles, due to lack of funding and lack of local talent.

With the advent of the Australian Space Agency, the situation has changed a bit, but the fact is that now Australia does not even have a launch site.

One goal

When Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in July 1969of the year, it was the Australian radio telescope that transmitted the first images around the globe. You might think that Australia was at the forefront of the space race, but in fact the country was belatedly aware of the enormous economic opportunities that space represents. Its first space agency was created in 1987 and disbanded nine years later.

Fortunately for companies like Gilmour,The Australian government financed the creation of a new space agency in July 2018. Its creation has aroused great interest among both the mainstream media and the public, and space has become a critical factor for a healthy economy literally overnight.

"The Australian Space Agency has capturedthe imagination of all Australians, ”says Karen Andrews, Minister of Industry, Science and Technology of Australia. “We are already seeing how industry throughout the country is moving towards creating the possibility of launching [rockets].”

And yet without the launch pad, the first launch of OneVision will happen at the cattle station. The team will need to take a rocket and a specially designed platform to the west in 20 hours, in a truck, into the Australian outback.

Gilmour rocket launch is subject to strictrules set by the Civil Aviation Safety Administration, which makes Gilmore’s mission twofold: he needs to overcome a number of administrative and insurance obstacles, and he needs to aim and launch a rocket at the sky.

If everything goes according to plan, One Vision will take off.about 40 kilometers above the Earth, which is four times higher than commercial airliners fly, will test the capabilities of the rocket engine and collect valuable data. A few days before launch, a small Gilmore team consisting of 15 engineers will be provided with work to the eyeballs.

“You’re always nervous before trials,” says Gilmore.

One vision

The overflowing Gilmore factory doesn’t initially look like a suitable place to build a rocket.

In one corner, behind the drawers and racks, isdark room with the inscription "LENI'S MISSION", part of the letters erased. Steel transport containers turned into offices, and NASA models of spacecraft and capsules that were once used by Gilmore as part of the company’s Academy of Astronaut Training were piled up overhead.

“They gave us a lot of technology that we could eventually use in space ships,” says Gilmore.

Now the simulation models are idle. Leaving work as head of corporate sales at Citibank in 2015, Gilmore, along with his brother James and wife Michelle, shifted the company's focus from simulators to spacecraft. After leaving a lucrative job to do rocket science, Adam gathered as much information as possible about the creation of rockets. He had no formal qualifications in aerospace engineering. Instead, on long-haul flights, he read NASA technical documents and studied rocket engine technologies.

This entrepreneurial mindset led Gilmore withthe very first day. His “factory” is nothing more than a white garage at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac. On its production complex is full of old chairs. And yet, somewhere in the midst of all this, there is the heart of the company: a 3D printer that ensures the creation of a patented rocket fuel company.

“We did a great job of developingfuel, ”explains Gilmore, without going into details. We used techniques such as 3D printing for some parts of the work, and we developed our own fuel that works really well. ”

This fuel is a carefully guarded secret. And when someone sees a 3D printer in action, they take away the recording medium. From what is known, the Gilmore rocket engine is a hybrid technology using solid fuel and a liquid oxidizer. When the liquid and the solid are mixed, the thrust required for separation is created.

“We tested the rocket engine five times on the ground, and the combustion efficiency was excellent, and the stability was excellent,” explains Gilmore.

One Vision is equipped with only one of the hybridGilmour rocket engines that can generate up to 80 kilonewtons of thrust at launch. For comparison, a single Merlin engine used in SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets generates approximately 10 times more thrust at 845 kN.

"In the aerospace industry, a good idea would be not only to conduct ground tests, but also to land it in a real rocket and see how it behaves in flight."

Launch One Vision

The journey from Gilmour’s headquarters to the launch site is already a mission in itself, and it has already been postponed somewhat. The first flight of One Vision has already been postponed for two months.

In order to tear One Vision off the ground,The whole Gilmore team needs 20 hours to travel by land. The rocket is loaded right on the mobile launcher and flies 1600 kilometers to the west through the desert in Australia. At this time of the year the temperature is about 28 degrees Celsius.

“Ilon Musk likes to say that he has a 50 percent chance of success,” smiles Gilmore. "I think we have a higher chance, but you know that there is always a small chance of failure."

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