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Doorstop - Gilmour Space Technologies

11 December 2019

Subject: Space industry, Gilmour Space Technologies, Australian Space Agency, NASA

E&OE

Minister Andrews held a doorstop with Deputy Head of the Australian Space Agency Anthony Murfett and Gilmour Space Technologies.

Karen Andrews: It’s an absolute pleasure to be here this morning at Gilmour Technologies with one of the main founders, Adam Gilmour and also the Deputy Head of the Australian Space Agency. This morning there has been an historic agreement forged between the Australian Space Agency and Gilmour Technologies. It’s a statement of strategic intent which is an indication of the particular technologies that Gilmour Technologies have developed right here on the Gold Coast, the experience that they have in research and development with rocket technology in particular and the fact that Australia is developing a very strong space sector here in Australia. We currently employ about 10,000 people in the space sector. It’s worth about $4 billion. The Government is committed to ensuring that we triple the size of the space industry right across Australia by 2030 so that it will be worth about $12 billion and employ an additional 20,000 people.

And of course right here on the Gold Coast we have Gilmour Technologies. It started as a start up in about 2014. Since then they have grown to a business that employs currently about 45 people but is looking to employ an additional 15 people here on the Gold Coast. Now the Gold Coast certainly has a very strong reputation for tourism, hospitality and building and construction but we are developing capability for the space sector. So what we are committed to doing as a Government is making sure that we have local providers that work with Gilmour Technologies so that we can have a strong presence for research and development and space technologies right here on the Gold Coast.

So I’ll actually invite next Adam Gilmour to come and say a few words about the work that Gilmour Technologies are doing here on the Gold Coast and particularly touch on the work that they’re doing with NASA.

Adam Gilmour: Thank you Minister. So we consider we've been working with the Space Agency from the very day they started, but we're happy to sign the agreement today to formalise all the different technologies we can work on together and initiatives we can work on together. And we are committed, as the Space Agency is, into growing the industry to employ people. As the Minister said, we started in the Gold Coast four years ago with three employees, we now have 45. We want to grow to at least 80 in the next 12 to 18 months. We've been predominantly hiring people from Queensland universities. We've got fantastic graduates. We have a Space Act Agreement with NASA so we're very happy that the Government is now committing $150 million to spend on Australian space companies to develop technology for those missions. We want to work with NASA on using our engines for anything that we can to land on the Moon or Mars. And we're very excited to continue that discussion with NASA in the months ahead. So I'm looking forward to next year, we're going to be testing a lot of different technologies and you'll see a lot more from us in the future. Thank you.

Question: Can you maybe tell us a bit about today's signature; what it actually means for you guys?

Adam Gilmour: So the statement of strategic intent lays out a whole lot of different technologies and endeavours that we've agreed that we will pursue. It says what we're looking to do in the next three to five years, where the Space Agency is going to help us and join with us to work on things together. And a lot of that's around STEM, building the industry, regulatory support for launching our rockets. So all of those things are great.

Question: So what are you looking to do by 2022?

Adam Gilmour: Launch our first orbital vehicle. So that's a vehicle that can take about 200 kilograms to space. We're very, very interested in the small satellite market. It's a multi-billion-dollar annual industry, not a lot of players in the world and we think we're one of the leading contenders for that business.

Question: How big is this orbital vehicle, what does it look like?

Adam Gilmour: It's a three-stage vehicle, it's pretty big, 27 metres tall, 1.8 metre diameter. It's going to have a payload fairing that has about three metres on it. And when it launches it will be very, very spectacular.

Question: And what do you have to do in the meantime to get this launch going and for it to be successful, do you have to do testing every day? Talk us through the steps involved leading up to this amazing moment.

Adam Gilmour: Yeah. So next year is going to be a lot of technology testing, we'll be testing our engines. So we've got two different engines in the rocket, one for the main engine and one for the upper stage. We just did our first upper stage engine test yesterday and it was successful, so we're very happy about that. We have a lot of other technology in the rockets in terms of our propellant tanks, other bits of our motors, guidance navigation and control. There's a lot of software on a rocket. It's basically an autonomous vehicle once it leaves the pad. So we're going to be testing all of these different things.

Question: Where are you testing them, sorry?

Adam Gilmour: We do a lot of testing in this factory that doesn't involve the rocket engine tests and then we've got a site out in Helidon where we test all of our rocket engines.

Question: And when are you hoping to do the testing out there?

Adam Gilmour: Well it started yesterday and next year we should do at least 20 to 30 engine tests and potentially 50. So we have a very, very busy engine test schedule next year.

Question: Can you maybe tell us about that test yesterday, what it involved and why it was successful?

Adam Gilmour: So yesterday's test was a new technology. We've been experimenting with a lot of different fuels and different oxidisers, so we came up with a new fuel and a new oxidiser and we put it all together. So we were very nervous about the test because it was brand new technology, but it worked very, very well. The photos that came back and the test results that came back were great, so we're very optimistic about what that means for our upper stage engine.

Question: And talk us through your agreement with NASA. How is all that going?

Adam Gilmour: Okay, so we have a Space Act Agreement with NASA that covers a multitude of technologies. So we can work with NASA on anything from our hybrid rocket engines to life support systems, to STEM education, so it's quite broad. So all we've got to do going forward is focus on what interests us and what interests them, and right now that's definitely our hybrid rockets and that's what we're going to continue talking with NASA throughout next year and beyond.

Question: What type of technology are they currently using of yours?

Adam Gilmour: They’re not using any of our technology right now. The agreement is to work on technology together.

Question: Okay, cool. And talk us through this new agreement today. Is that set to create plenty of jobs and what kind of degree do you have to have to apply?

Adam Gilmour: Well, I think the agreement helps us with getting more customer business and also in attracting talent. Mainly, we hire engineers, and we hire any kind of an engineer. So you can be a chemical engineer, a mechanical engineer, aerospace engineer, a physics major, mechatronics. So we hire widely, even if you do marketing and business, we will still need you in accounting – so very diversified hiring.

Question: Anthony, just tell us about the significance of today.

Anthony Murfett: So it's great to be here this morning. The purpose of the Australian Space Agency is to grow and transform a globally respected space industry. And what we see with the signing of the agreement today is a statement that shows what Australia's industry can do. The agency in its mission to grow and transform a globally respected space industry, which is guided by tripling the size of our space economy to $12 billion by 2030 and 20,000 jobs, is to understand the capabilities of the industry and importantly showcase that to Australia and the world. We've signed 15 of these agreements, and today is the 16th. And what that shows is the massive excitement and opportunity we have in Australia and in places like the Gold Coast.

The agreement itself focuses on new areas such as new rocket hybrid technologies. But some of the exciting things it does as well is inspire the generation, because what we see with space, it truly inspires. And the connections that this company is driving with the local universities and also connecting other parts of the Brisbane ecosystem as suppliers so that they can create the technologies that they need.

And this comes through importantly, because when we look at space, not only does it inspire, it is actually part of our everyday lives, from finding our way to this meeting place today, but importantly so that we can look at the Earth from above and understand what is happening on the surface.

So again, when the Agency is looking to work with international partners, and our mandate is to open doors internationally, we need to have that connection internationally with the national environment. And with great activities such as the Moon to Mars, which is about $150 million investing here in Australia to support NASA to go forward to the Moon and onto Mars, there are technologies here in Australia across the nation, including here in the Gold Coast that can contribute to these aims.

Question: What are you trying to achieve when we do launch this rocket in 2022? What are we trying to achieve by that?... Some people at home might be like: ‘What for? Why?’

Adam Gilmour: Okay, so the market that we're going after is the satellite broadband market. So there's roughly 25,000 satellites that are going to be launched in the next five years to low Earth orbit, predominantly for broadband internet. So you'll be able to get 1500 mbps a second out of these satellites. And three of some of the biggest companies in the world, Space X, Amazon, and One Web are behind these satellite launches. So they go into approximately 80 different orbital plains. And then they last for between five and seven years. So when they start to decay and fail, we can use our rocket to go up and replace these satellites to maintain the constellation. And we think this is worth literally a thousand launches a year, and we won't be able to have anywhere near that capacity but we think the market is big. Our estimates that the revenue around launching these small satellites to space is around $5 billion US a year.

ENDS