How this Aussie space company is taking nation by storm
A GOLD Coast space company has secured a $19 million funding boost to help it develop cheaper, faster rockets.
Pimpama-based start-up Gilmour Space Technologies (GST) will use the grant to further develop its low-cost rockets and launch vehicles to send small to medium-sized satellites into low-earth orbit.
Founded by brothers James and Adam Gilmour in 2012, the company is at the frontier of the Australian space industry thanks to its focus on satellites and rockets for both commercial and national benefit.
"We will use those funds to further develop, build and test our orbital vehicle and to start commercial operations from 2020," James Gilmour said.
The $19 million boost to Gilmour Space is the 10th investment by CSIRO's Innovation Fund, launched with a $70 million investment from the Federal Government and $30 million from CSIRO.
Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the fund had already invested in nine companies, creating more than 100 jobs and opening up new industries.
She said Gilmour Space's pioneering projects would help turn Australia's world-class research into new business opportunities and local jobs.
"This is great news for the Gold Coast, helping to create more local jobs and boosting our economy," she said.
"Australia is ready to take bold new steps to grow its space sector, providing jobs now and into the future."
CEO Adam Gilmour said the company would conduct a suborbital test flight in November, with plans for its first orbital test to follow in 2020.
"We see small satellite launches as a multi-billion dollar opportunity and this funding will help us become a significant player in the global small launch market," he said.
James Gilmour said the company was exploring several poential launch sites, all in Queensland.
"For the orbital flights, far north Queensland would be preferred but anywhere on the coast of Queensland works well," he said.
"In fact, we are in discussions with a few councils to explore this."
The projects will see Gilmour's current staff of 28 almost double in the next 12 months.
"Most of our employees are in the Gold Coast and we're looking to grow our team there to around 40 to 45 in the next 12 months," James Gilmour said.
Ms Andrews said the Australian Space Agency was established to support cutting-edge innovation in Australia's space industry and help it triple in size.
"From our factory floors to our farms, a vibrant space industry will unlock opportunities and create jobs for all sorts of Australian businesses," she said.
CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall said Gilmour's work translating research into global-scale business was a great illustration of what the fund was set up to achieve.
"Building on more than 70 years of space research, CSIRO is excited to continue its journey from radar to moon landing to WiFi, to now investing in rockets with Gilmour Space Technologies," he said.
Dr Meghan Clark, head of the new Australian Space Agency, a central co-ordination point for national space activities and partnerships that started operations in July, said space technology underpinned every part of the broader Australian economy, from communications to agriculture, mining and transport.
Gilmour's success has led to global attention.
In February, the Gilmours signed a deal with NASA to work on a rover that will harvest water from the surface of Mars.
The company's innovative hybrid propulsion technology is cleaner and more efficient than traditional rockets.
Ms Andrews said the costs of getting into space had decreased as technology becomes cheaper, smaller and more accessible.
"This means it is not only big industry that can participate in space," she said.
"An array of businesses, large and small, as well as ingenious entrepreneurs, are in the game.
"So while the opportunities arising from space industries are almost as limitless as space itself, the benefits from a growing space industry are very local."
The Australian space industry boasts more than 380 companies, employs more than 10,000 people and contributes $3.9 billion a year to the economy but currently accounts for just 0.8 per cent of the $US345 billion global space market.
Ms Andrews said the Federal Government wanted to triple the size of the domestic industry by 2030 - a move that would add $12 billion to the economy and create 20,000 jobs.