The EV revolution has gone ultra-high tech and is heading for space following a partnership between Australian hybrid rocket developer Gilmour Space Technologies and UK-based electrification specialist Equipmake to support the Gold Coast company’s commercial launch program.
Under the agreement, Equipmake will supply an advanced, lightweight electric motor system for Gilmour Space’s Eris rockets which are set to take their first commercial payload from the company’s Bowen Orbital Spaceport in north Queensland next year.
Gilmour Space - whose co-founder James Gilmour won the 2022 Gold Coast Young Entreprener Award - Technology - says the state-of-the art aluminium ‘spoke architecture’ motor will deliver ‘unprecedented levels of efficiency and performance, capable of operating under the intense pressures of launch and in the vacuum of space’.
Equipmake is led by former F1 engineer Ian Foley, who has developed advanced EV technology for automotive and specialist supercar manufacturers, as well as complete EV drivetrains for buses.
This is the first move by the Norfolk-based company into the space industry after previously venturing into the agriculture, marine and mining sectors.
Gilmour Space says it has been seeking a partner to design, engineer and supply a bespoke electric motor and inverter system to integrate with its orbital-class Eris rocket engines for some time. It has been working with Equipmake since the end of 2020.
The space technology company, which was founded in 2013 and had its first test launch in 2016, is competing in an increasingly crowded global space race to create affordable orbital payload delivery systems for businesses. The company, which signed a collaboration agreement with US space agency NASA in 2018, uses a hybrid propulsion system to launch satellites into orbit.
It says the parameters for the electric motor to be used in the Eris rockets were ‘ultra-demanding’, namely that it must be lightweight, highly robust and capable of withstanding g-forces during launch and the rigours of space vacuum.
The rotor in Equipmake’s electric motors use a proprietary design where the permanent magnets are arranged like the spokes of a wheel to deliver a significant performance advantage in a challenging space environment.
“Developing the extremely lightweight, exceptionally high-energy-density electric motor and inverter unit was one of the most challenging and most exciting projects we have undertaken at Equipmake,” says Foley, the managing director of Equipmake.
“Our EV technology is bringing a step change to the world’s most advanced electric cars and buses, as well as in marine, off-highway and mining. However, space represents a completely new sector.
“The endeavour is one which Equipmake’s 45-strong team relished. With the support of the engineers at Gilmour, we delivered the required technical solution, and now look forward to the launch of the first Gilmour Space commercial Eris rocket in 2023.”
Gilmour Space is preparing for a host of commercial space launches over the next few years with plans to follow up its debut launch in 2023 with a ‘rideshare mission’ in 2024 that will deliver multiple payloads into space in a single rocket.
Gilmour Space co-founder and CEO Adam Gilmour says the partnership with Equipmake was an important step in positioning the company for its first commercial launch.
“It goes without saying that delivering rockets into space is an exceptionally demanding exercise, which allows for little margin for error,” says Gilmour.
“The team at Equipmake has been great to work with in regard to their flexible, agile approach and 'can-do' attitude to in completing the design, build and test of this new electric motor.
“We’ve come a long way at Gilmour Space to develop Australia’s first orbital launch capability, and our team is very excited to see Eris launch to space next year.”
Gilmour Space Technologies is one of Australia’s largest dedicated space companies which earlier this year was awarded $15 million to develop and launch a sovereign surveillance satellite for the Australian Defence Force.
Over the past few years, the company has announced several collaborations with emerging aerospace industry players including Sydney-based Space Machines Company, electronic warfare sensor company DEWC Systems and US-based Momentus.
Last month it signed an agreement with global mobile satellite group Inmarsat to support the company’s planned space launches from Australia.
The privately owned Gilmour Space is backed by venture capital firms Blackbird and Main Sequence, as well as the Queensland Investment Corporation and superannuation funds HESTA, Hostplus and NGS Super.
Get our daily business news
Sign up to our free email news updates.