4 mins read 23 Sep 2022

Gilmour Space to launch Australia’s first orbital rocket early next year

Gilmour Space is set to launch Australia’s first orbital rocket in early 2023 in collaboration with communications company Inmarsat.

Eris is set to launch early next year and will be Australia’s first orbital rocket. Credit: Gilmour Space Technologies.

Gilmour Space Technologies has announced plans to launch its Eris rocket early next year. Eris will be Australia's first orbital rocket and the first orbital launch attempt from a commercial Australian launch site.

The rocket is planned to deliver up to 305 kg to low-Earth orbit (LEO) and will orbit at an altitude of 500km. It stands at 25m and has a fairing diameter of up to 1.5m.

Eris will make its maiden launch from Gilmour’s Bowen Orbital Spaceport (BOS) in Abbott Point Port in northern Queensland, which is currently under construction. This project is another example of an Australian rocket company establishing its own infrastructure to launch its own rockets from home soil, eliminating the need to send its payloads to overseas providers. In fact, the BOS joins the likes of Southern Launch’s Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex and Equatorial Launch Australia’s Arnhem Space Centre.

The Gilmour Space Bowen Orbital Spaceport (BOS). Credit: Gilmour Space Technologies.

Collaborating with a global leader

The upcoming launch is the product of a new collaboration with Inmarsat, a British satellite communications company, which signed an agreement with Gilmour last week. Inmarsat will support Eris and other space launches from Australia using its InRange system.    

Traditionally, to read rocket telemetry, launch companies would need to construct and maintain new ground stations which are much more expensive and time-consuming. This system also causes delays in launches and a reduction in payload mass. InRange solves this problem with its constellation of “ELERA” L-band satellites in geostationary (GEO) orbit (the “L-band” denotes a specific range of frequencies in the radio spectrum from 1 to 2 gigahertz). The satellites provide real-time information on the trajectory of a rocket, including its altitude and velocity, and communicate this data directly and reliably to launch providers. In fact, InRange is claimed to have 99.9% reliability over its network.

Inmarsat’s InRange constellation will enable rocket launches to be easier and more cost-effective. Credit: Inmarsat.

Enabling more launches for Australian space companies

The InRange system is revolutionary for end-users because, true to its name, it ensures that rockets are in range of real-time telemetry. It removes the dependency on ground stations and eliminates the risk of blackout zones, which is when a rocket is between two ground stations separated by an ocean, or when they are on the other side of the Earth. InRange has a strong potential to reduce costs as well as barriers to entry to the launch market, which is critical during a time when the commercial space industry is rapidly taking off.  

“Inmarsat InRange can accelerate Australia’s ambitions by providing telemetry from space and avoiding the need to finance and build terrestrial-based telemetry solutions that are limited in coverage, take time to construct and are expensive. Inmarsat InRange can support launch providers worldwide with their ambitions,” said Rajeev Suri, CEO of Inmarsat in the recent press release.  

The telemetry from Eris will be received and transmitted by Inmarsat’s InRange system. Credit: Gilmour Space Technologies.

Inmarsat’s continued presence in Australia

By collaborating with Gilmour Space, Inmarsat continues its long history of involvement with Australian space activities which dates back to over 30 years ago. The British company already provides a virtual satellite system for the Australian Defence Force and has built new ground stations in Perth. It is also capitalising on the emerging space market by tapping into the private sector and supporting the era of Australian orbital launch from its inception. 

Adam Gilmour, CEO of Gilmour Space, is proud of the new collaboration and is excited to achieve some national firsts. “It’s been fantastic to work with Inmarsat as a well-established partner, to help us demonstrate space-based telemetry for our first and future Eris launches from Australia,” he added.