SPACE 2.0 – Australian start-ups making an impact through innovation

The international space industry is rapidly changing. The old system, with large, slow, cautious, aerospace companies that are ruled over by a mountain of paperwork, is being disrupted by smaller, faster, bolder start-up companies.

This is SPACE 2.0
 

SPACE 1.0 was how the space industry has worked since the 1950s. It took us to the moon and it flew the space shuttle. It was funded by governments and was very slow and very, very, expensive.

Australian start-ups are well-placed to be SPACE 2.0 leaders.
We need Australians to invest in this space revolution,
so our start-ups can stay in Australia.


An avalanche of new space technologies are entering the market or gaining funding, many of them considered the stuff of science fiction only a decade ago.  There is now very good reason for sci-fi fans to have real hope that some of their dreams will be realised within their lifetimes.

Exciting projects such as off-planet resource mining and manufacturing are now considered commercially feasible and are attracting serious investment.

SPACE 2.0 is agile, responsive, risk-taking and far less expensive than SPACE 1.0.  It combines the very competitive business world of Venture Capital and Silicon Valley, with out-of-the-box thinking inspired by the wild space frontier.

There is a SPACE 2.0 ecosystem developing in Australia.  It is made up of start-ups; some of whom have secured a first round of funding.  There are also many more that have revolutionary ideas that just need some investment to allow them to become a reality. 

So what do these Australia space start-ups do?


Some Australian Space 2.0 Start-ups

The first Australian Space Technology Company to receive backing from Venture Capital was the Adelaide-based Fleet Space Technologies. Fleet currently uses an existing constellation of microsatellites to, amongst other things, enable farmers to monitor remote equipment from their homestead.

In 2017, Fleet received a $5M investment from venture capital, and currently employs 20 electronic and aerospace engineers.  They have big plans.  At present Fleet is purchasing two of their own nano-satellites (which weigh about 5 kg) for an on-orbit demonstration of their service.  These satellites will be launched overseas, as currently there are no satellite launch services in Australia.

Fleet has commenced the design of a next-generation satellite that will be larger and have more capability.  They will need significant further investment to bring their plans to life.

Inovor Technologies is an Adelaide-based start-up that designs and manufactures small satellites.  As described in last week’s article, they designed and built one of Australia’s nanosats that was released in 2017 from the International Space Station. 

Inovor currently employs 14 highly-specialised engineers and has growth plans to build some of the 6000 small satellites predicted by Euroconsult to be launched over the next 10 years. To do this they will need capital. To ensure that design and manufacture remains in Australia, this funding must come from Australians.

Hypersonix - an Australian Space 2.0 start-up with a difference

Our Hypersonix start-up is part of the Australian SPACE 2.0 ecosystem.  We aim to be the launcher of choice for international and Australian small satellite companies like Fleet, launching from Australia.

While there are many Australian SPACE 2.0 startups, Hypersonix is one of only a couple of companies aiming to create an Australian domestic space launch capability.

To do this, we need capital.

Hypersonix is one of only a couple of companies creating an Australian space launch capability


We want Australia to be a cutting-edge, forward-looking nation at the frontline of the space revolution, enjoying its lucrative rewards.  There is currently a massive expansion in access to space, so it's vital that we do it in a sustainable way. We have the technology that will allow greater reusabilitycleaner fuel, and eventually, safer and cheaper space travel.

At Hypersonix, we are investigating all possible funding opportunities; from government support, to venture capital, and also private investors.

Right now, we are asking for your support as private donors to get off the ground (pardon the pun).  Your support could be large or small; it will all get us closer to launch.

To find out more, contact us now.

CUBESAT2018 – Australian Innovation On Show

 Hypersonix presented at CUBESAT2018 in Sydney in July.

It’s a conference attended by start-ups and researchers to showcase the latest in Australia’s satellite and satellite launch technology. 

There was also a presentation from the freshly minted Australian Space Agency – “We are open for space business”.

Figure 1 - The disruptive nature of cubesats

Cubesats are tiny satellites, some not much bigger than a mobile phone. 

The revolution in micro-electronics has meant that satellites that once weighed 1000 kg (1 tonne) now weigh as little as 100 kg, while having the same or better capabilities.  Cubesats are even smaller, weighing as little as 10 kg.  Figure 1 shows a slide from Delta-V, a Sydney based start-up accelerator, indicating the disruptive nature of Cubesats.

Cubesats can produce beautiful images of the earth, communicate with farming equipment in remote areas, and keep track of where ships are at any time on the world’s oceans.  Figure 2 shows an image from an American company called Planet which maintains a constellation of more than 70 micro-satellites in low earth orbit. 

These satellites look back at the earth and Planet can supply an image like Figure 2 of anywhere on the earth’s surface once per day.  Figure 2 is of Rio De Janeiro and was taken on August 6, 2016 during the summer Olympics.

Figure 2 - Image of Rio De Janeiro during the 2016 Summer Olympics

CUBESAT2018 showcased the great advances Australian companies and researchers have made over the last few years. 

Australia has had 4 Cubsats launched into space.  Three of these were part of the European Space Agency’s QB50 program and were designed, built and are now being operated by Australian Universities. 

The Adelaide based start-up, Inovor Technologies, was responsible for the design and manufacture of one of the QB50 satellites. 

Biarri is a cubesat operated by the Defence Science and Technology Group of Australia using technology developed by the University of New South Wales.

Figure 3 - Artist's impression of AU03 INSPIRE-2 developed by the Australian Universities and launched as part of QB50.

Two Australian start-ups supply satellite based communications to Australian farmers using existing satellite constellations.   Fleet and Myrioto are on the forefront of what is known as the “Internet-of-things” (IoT). 

These companies can connect farmers with a multitude of sensors spread all over their farms.  For example, a farmer does not have to drive out and check on the level of water tanks and dams, but can download the information right at the homestead.  This type of technology is particularly applicable to Australia where properties can be thousands of hectares!

Of course, all these satellites need to get into space.  Over the next 10 years there is projected to be a need for over 6000 small satellites to be launched!

This is where companies like Hypersonix come in.  Hypersonix plans to supply dedicated launch of satellites up to 150kg to Australian and International customers, lanched from Australia. 

Each of the small satellites needs to be in its own orbit.  Hypersonix is sized to do just this.  Our resuable technology enables us to be commercially competitive but also sustainable.

If Australian space start-ups are able to get the financial support they need to take advantage of the commercial opportunities in space, then the sky really is the limit!

Creating a sustainable future for space

This century will see an explosion in space travel and access to space.

It is important that this is done in a sustainable way that minimises the impact on our environment. The fuel we use is a big part of this and we are ensuring that the Hypersonix scramjet will use a very clean fuel.

Scramjets generate thrust by combustion, but what makes scramjets special is they burn their propellant (fuel) at supersonic speed!

Also, as an airbreathing engine, they don't need to carry oxidiser like a rocket does. Very few fuels have been shown to burn fast enough to be used in a scramjet, which limits the available options.

Fortunately, there's an environmentally friendly fuel which UQ researchers have demonstrated can be combusted at supersonic speeds!

Figure 1 - The typical combustion process (NASA)

Common rocket propellants, such as liquid methane and RP-1, combust hydrocarbons to produce thrust.

Unfortunately some of the by-products of this combustion process are carbon dioxide and other pollutants. The impact has been relatively minor up to now because rocket launches have been rare, however this century will see launches to space become more and more commonplace.  The negative impacts of using pollution producing fuels will continue to accumulate unless alternatives are found.

At Hypersonix, the fuel carried by our scramjet is liquid hydrogen.

Hydrogen burns extremely quickly, so it's a very good fuel for a scramjet. What is also great is that the waste product after hydrogen is burned with oxygen is simply water (in the form of superheated steam)!

The very simplified equation below shows how during combustion in the engine, for every two hydrogen atoms (H), one oxygen atom (O) binds with them and also releases energy.

 

H + H + O = H 2 O + Energy!

Figure 2 - The by-product of hydrogen fuel combustion = H2O!

So the Hypersonix scramjet will use a very sustainable method of propulsion. Even the hydrogen fuel can be produced in an environmentally sustainable way.