Gilmour Space Achieves 45,000 Newtons of Thrust in Hybrid Rocket Engine Test

 

Hybrid motor test (Credit: Gilmour Space Technologies)

QUEENSLAND, Australia, January 4, 2018 (Gilmour Space Technologies PR)– Australia and Singapore-based rocket company, Gilmour Space Technologies (http://www.gspacetech.com), has fired up the first of its full-scale orbital engine tests in a staged program to launch small satellites to space by 2020.

“We conducted two successful engine tests in December, one of which was a low pressure test-fire that generated 45 kilonewtons (over 10,100 pounds-force) of thrust,” said its CEO and Founder, Adam Gilmour.

“This is significantly more thrust than some of our small satellite launch competitors’ main engines, and we expect to do much better in our full-pressure and full- duration test firings later this month.”

Since closing AUD 5 million (USD 3.7 million) in Series-A funding in mid 2017, the Queensland-based startup has been scaling up to offer low-cost launches to a growing number of small satellite players capitalising on ‘New Space’ or ‘Space 2.0’ – from 24/7 constellation-based earth observation and communications, to satellite servicing, space mining and the Internet of Things.

Unlike most commercial rockets today that use either solid- or liquid-fuelled engines, Gilmour Space is pioneering a new breed of cheaper, safer and greener hybrid-engine rockets that combine a liquid oxidiser with a proprietary solid fuel that overcomes long- standing performance issues with traditional hybrid rockets.

In November, the company completed tests of its high-thrust ‘interplanetary’ CubeSatPropulsion System which could be used to power cube-sized satellites or spacecraft to the orbit of the Moon or Mars; and in December, began ground tests of its orbital-class rocket engine.

“We started with a full-flow, mono-propellant thruster hot fire of our large catalyst pack,” said Mr Gilmour. “This is a critical subsystem of our main orbital engine, and it efficiently decomposed our Hydrogen Peroxide oxidiser at a core temperature well above the ignition temperature of our fuel.”

The second short-duration, low-pressure, full-flow engine test further verified all critical subsystems of the orbital engine. (See: https://youtu.be/K1X7mIPaDPE)

“There was almost instant ignition in our large-diameter (46 cm) single port motor, and we generated over 45 kN of thrust,” he added. That’s enough force to lift two of SUVs off the ground.

“These are big achievements in hybrid rocket technology and a big leap for Australia’s New Space industry,” said Mr Gilmour, whose team is targeting to launch a suborbital test rocket from Australia in the second quarter of 2018, subject to regulatory approvals.

“Despite a growing number of startups and companies looking to enter the small satellite launch market, it’s notable that only a handful have progressed to actually building, testing and launching a rocket that demonstrates their technology.

“Gilmour Space is doing it; and if all goes well, I believe our new engine could well be the largest and most powerful privately-funded hybrid rocket engine in the world.”

ABOUT

Gilmour Space Technologies (www.gspacetech.com) is a new space company with operations in Queensland, Australia and Singapore, that is developing low-cost launch vehicles for the small satellite/payload market.

In June 2016, Gilmour Space successfully flew the countries’ first privately developed hybrid rocket to an altitude of 5 Km using proprietary 3D printed fuel (the latter reportedly a world-first demonstration). Since then, the company has raised AUD 5 million (USD 3.7 million) Series-A funding from venture capital firms Blackbird Ventures and 500 Startups, among other private investors; and been awarded R&D grants in Singapore and Australia.

Highlighted at the 2017 International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide as a promising new Australian startup to watch, Gilmour Space is now scaling up to launch its first commercial-class rockets to suborbital space by 2019, and to Low Earth Orbit (or LEO) by 2020.

Website: https://www.gspacetech.com
Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gilmourspacetech

  • Ignacio Rockwill

    Hybrid. Hmm.

  • therealdmt

    See you on the dark side of the Moon…

  • duheagle

    Hmm, indeed.

    One must admit, though, that this hybrid design seems to differ in some important respects from that of Virgin Galactic, whose design has done so much to blot the escutcheon of hybrid rockets in general.

    First, it uses H2O2, not the capricious NO2, as oxidizer.

    Second, it catalytically decomposes the H2O2 into a hot, oxygen-rich gas stream prior to encountering the solid propellant within the rocket, trivializing the ignition process.

    Third, despite its builder’s assertions that it “could well be the largest and most powerful privately-funded hybrid rocket engine in the world,” it isn’t even close. The described test produced only 1/6 the thrust of VG’s RocketEngineTwo. Even if future tests double this thrust level, that would still be only 1/3 of RocketEngineTwo or roughly equal to the motor that powered SpaceShipOne to its Ansari X-Prize victory.

    As Hybrid motors have demonstrated scalability problems, Gilmour would be wise to stick with a perfected motor of the current size and simply cluster them for the needed level of performance of any orbital launch-capable vehicle.

    It would have been interesting to have had more detail forthcoming about at least the general nature of the solid propellant grain and also the method of pushing oxidizer into the engine. That this was referred to as a “low-pressure” test implies that there is also a high-pressure mode in which the engine is supposed to operate. If the motor is a purely pressure-fed design, that would be easy enough to understand, but pump-fed engines can also vary the inlet pressure with which they deliver propellants. A pump-fed, variable-pressure (i.e., throttleable) hybrid would be another significant departure from VG practice.

  • passinglurker

    Gilmour would be wise to stick with a perfected motor of the current size and simply cluster them for the needed level of performance of any orbital launch-capable vehicle.

    going by thier promotional materials, mockups, cgi, and concept art this is exactly what they are doing with the planned orbital vehicle haveing 8 motors bundled together

  • passinglurker

    Hybrid? Peroxide? smallsats? Someones just checking off all the investor bait innovations aren’t they? We’ll see how much of this design survives to the first low altitude “suborbital” test I guess.

  • Laughing Gas is obNOXious

    >Virgin Galactic, whose design has done so much to blot the escutcheon of hybrid rockets in general.

    VG’s hybrid rockets came from Sierra Nevada. Shouldn’t forget about SNCs part in this.

    VG probably shouldn’t have bought SNCs snake oil, but now they’re apparently stuck with it.

  • Jacob Samorodin

    Clustering would work. i assume Gilmour could assemble an expendable ring cluster of eight cores surrounding 4 sustained-thrust cores for a combined LO thrust of 120,000 Ibf (540,000N). Not enough for a man-rated orbital booster, but more than enough to serve as a good small-sat launcher, and even giving Australia an indigenous booster capable of sending 100 kg to the Moon.

  • duheagle

    Hadn’t looked up Gilmour’s web site before posting the above comment.

    I see the engines are pressure-fed. If pressurization is maintained via tapping off some of the gas generated by the catalytic dissociation system then a form of throttleability still appears possible given that the “low-pressure” firing test achieved a stable 45 kN while the launch vehicle descriptions say the engine is rated at 70 kN sea level and 80 kN vacuum thrust.

    The Isp numbers claimed are very good for a hybrid also. I speculate that the propellant grain might be some formulation based on high average molecular weight petroleum-based wax – paraffin, as we call it here in the States.

    Provided Gilmour’s funding is adequate, this appears to be a very credible smallsat launcher effort.

    Given their stated intent to begin sub-orbital sounding rocket operations roughly a year hence, it is even possible that Gilmour will beat VG in having the first hybrid-powered rocket vehicle make it above the
    Karman Line.

  • redneck

    SS1?