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Largest rocket engine ever developed in Australia fires up in Queensland

Eris rocket engine Gilmour Space Technologies
Photo: Gilmour Space Technologies

Rocket engineers at Gilmour Space Technologies (GST) have carried out a successful 110-kilonewton test fire of the most powerful rocket engine ever developed in Australia.

The 75-second test was a major milestone for Gilmour Space, which is developing rockets that will, over the next five years, be capable of launching 300- to 4,000-kilogram satellites and payloads into low earth and other orbits.

“What you see here is the main engine that will power the first and second stages of our three-stage Eris rocket to space,” explained company CEO, Adam Gilmour.

“It was a successful test. We achieved our expected full thrust of 110 kilonewtons (or 25,000 pounds-force) over the 75 seconds, and our team will be moving on to the final engine qualification campaign next month.”

Strategically, the test was also a demonstration of Australia’s first sovereign launch capability. “It is no small thing to say that we’ve developed Australia’s largest rocket engine; and that it could have significant flow-on benefits for the commercial, civil and defence space sectors,” he added.

On where and when Eris will be launched, Gilmour said the company was currently seeking approvals from state and federal government agencies to green light a small orbital spaceport at the Abbot Point State Development Area in Bowen, North Queensland.

“With timely assessments and approvals from relevant authorities, we hope to be able to launch Australia’s first sovereign-made rocket from Queensland sometime in the latter half of 2022.”

GST’s rocket engine test follows a similar achievement by Thales Australia from May 2021, when the company test fired a locally-developed Jones rocket motor.

It also follows a May 2020 contract award GST received from the Australian defense department to develop the rocket that will launch small payloads and satellites.