Australia's first orbital spaceport opens in North Queensland

Australia's first orbital spaceport opens in North Queensland

Yesterday, the Queensland State Government put out a press release in regards to the nation's first, orbital spaceport, being opened. The Bowen Orbital Spaceport is a first of its kind in Australia, and it is poised to bring orbital flights back to the continent, for the first time since the 70s. However, these past orbital missions were flown by British or American made rockets, from the nations soil. Never before has an Australian-made rocket launched into orbit.

Artist rendition of a Eris rocket launching from Bowen © Gilmour Space Technologies

The spaceport is operated by Gilmour Space Technologies, an aerospace startup headquartered in the city of Gold Coast, Queensland. Gilmour is poised to be the first Australian entity, to fly a privately developed, orbital rocket. If successful in their endeavors, Gilmour will be leading the charge in Australia's emerging aerospace industry.

Bowen Orbital Spaceport

For any nation to successfully bolster an aerospace industry, especially one capable of launching payloads independently, you need a spaceport. And with Bowen recently coming online, Australia is one step closer to achieving this. In 2021, after the required environmental and technical studies were completed, Gilmour was given the green light to begin work on their spaceport; and on April 4th, 2024, Bowen officially became the first commercial spaceport, capable of orbital flights.

“The Bowen Orbital Spaceport will provide valuable access to space from Australia, enabled by rockets and satellites developed, manufactured, and launched right here in Queensland." Said Adam Gilmour, founder and CEO of Gilmour Space Technologies.

Looking at photos of the spaceport, one can see it is very simple and compact. Bowen features a single launch pad, necessary ground stage equipment, as well as an assembly building for payload and stage integration. Various low to mid-equatorial orbits, ranging in inclination from 20° to 65° are accessible from this launch facility.

Eris rocket at the Bowen Spaceport © Gilmour Space Technologies

Gilmour intends to fly their Eris rocket out of the newly operational spaceport sometime in the coming weeks. An Eris rocket is already at the site and ready to go, all that is needed is good weather and a launch permit from the Australian Space Agency.

“With the Spaceport now open and the Eris rocket fully assembled on site, the countdown begins for this Queensland success story to soar to new heights.” - Cameron Dick, Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Minister for Trade and Investment.

More about Eris

Artist rendition of the Eris block one rocket © Gilmour Space Technologies

Eris is a small lift launch vehicle capable of sending 305kg to a 500km SSO in its block 1 configuration. Eris is comprised of 3 stages, with the first being 2 meters in diameter. After the first stage, the second and third stage taper into a diameter of 1.5 meters. Overall, the rocket has a height of 25 meters.

Powering Australia's first orbital class rocket are the rocket engines Sirius and Phoenix. Four Sirius engines power the first stage, while one powers the second stage. Each one of these engines is capable of outputting 115kn (11,000+ kg) of thrust. Sirius is a "hybrid" rocket engine that uses a liquid oxidizer, but a solid propellant. A single Phoenix rocket engine powers the last stage of the Eris rocket. Phoenix utilizes liquid oxygen and kerosene and is constructed using additive manufacturing processes. Little is known about this engine's thrust or specific impulse.

Sirius (top) and Phoenix (bottom) rocket engines performing static fires © Gilmour Space Technologies (note: sorry for blurry pic, best I could find)

About Gilmour Space Technologies

Founded in 2012, by Adam and James Gilmour, two brothers from Gold Coast, Queensland, Gilmour Space Technologies is an end-to-end space company, that makes both satellites and as of 2015, rockets. The aerospace company has one goal in mind, bringing orbital capabilities to the nation and continent, of Australia. This goal will soon come to fruition, as the stage has been sent for the company's first orbital attempt in the coming weeks.

Gilmour Space is estimated to be valued at 605 million USD and it employs around 200 people.

Logo of Gilmour Space Technologies