As the global space race heats up, driven largely by private companies like Elon Musk's SpaceX, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and aerospace giants like Boeing, the scope for small launches is an increasingly lucrative market, this is where companies like Australia's Gilmour Space Technologies seek to make their mark.
“We are very proud to welcome Professor Dava Newman and Colonel Pamela Melroy as senior advisers to the board,” said Gilmour Space Technologies chief executive and founder Adam Gilmour.
Colonel (Ret'd) Pamela Melroy is a retired officer in the US Air Force, a test pilot and ex-NASA astronaut and Space Shuttle commander. She has held senior roles in the US Federal Aviation Administration, Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, and in various defence companies in the US and Australia.
Professor Dava Newman is the former deputy administrator of NASA, and current Apollo Program professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has been a key proponent of NASA's human Journey to Mars, and is a renowned inventor, mentor and engineer.
"Dava and Pamela have both had incredible careers in space. Their deep knowledge and experience across civil, defence and commercial space activities – and their openness to new technologies and innovation – will be invaluable to the team as we grow our launch capabilities and develop frontier technologies in space," said Gilmour.
Gilmour aims to bring two low-cost launch systems for sub-orbital and orbital launches: the Ariel, which is scheduled for operation in the first quarter of 2019, and the Eris, which is scheduled for introduction in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Ariel provides sub-orbital launch capability with an estimated launch price of US$9,000 per kilogram, a max payload of 130 kilograms and altitude of up to 150 kilometres. Gilmour claims that the Ariel payload bay is 50 per cent larger than other sounding rockets and supports industry standard payload modules, which are recoverable with the optional installation of a parachute recovery system.
The Eris system provides orbital launch capacity (low earth orbit) with an estimated launch price of US$25,000-38,000 per kilogram depending on the payload mass, with a max payload of 400 kilograms. Eris is a three-stage launch system propelled by eight of the G-70 hybrid rocket engines developed by Gilmour Space Technologies
Melroy expressed excitement at joining Gilmour, saying, "I am very pleased to be joining the Gilmour Space advisory board at this exciting time. I believe their hybrid rocket technology is poised to make a substantial contribution to the low-cost launch market."
Professor Newman went further: "Indeed, we are at the crossroads in commercial space with the advent of new small launch vehicles. Gilmour Space has demonstrated significant advances in their propulsion technology, and I look forward to seeing more innovative engineering from this promising Australian rocket company."
Gilmour Space Technologies is a next-generation hybrid propulsion company that is developing low-cost launch vehicles for the small satellite market. Since obtaining its Series A funding mid-last year, the Queensland-based company has achieved a number of major milestones, including a Space Act Agreement with NASA and a successful 12-second, 75 kN thrust (16,900 lb) test-fire of its orbital rocket engine.