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Queensland Government Helps Space Tech Start-Up Launch

Image Credits: Queensland Government, Press Release

A Brisbane-based start-up company, which has been supported by the Queensland Government’s Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Hub, is sending locally-made components into orbit, onboard SpaceX, from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. The region’s Minster for Regional Development and Manufacturing stated that the components going into space were a first for an Australian company.

The government provides various support methods and, in this case, the Queensland Government-funded ARM Hub, at Northgate, helped the start-up by providing a workspace to start this fantastic business, as well as assistance in applying for the critical grants that have made this SpaceX opportunity a reality.

Meanwhile, the Nudgee MP noted that the local ARM Hub is making Queensland a nation-leader in robotics manufacturing. She said the start-up’s team is just one business based here at the hub in Northgate and she looks forward to seeing the fantastic advancements and products to come from this Palaszczuk Government initiative.

The start-up’s Co-Founder and CEO stated that one of the challenges for new businesses in the space industry was the need to validate your product by successfully launching it into space. The team developed Australia’s first in-space chemical thruster for satellites made with non-toxic propellants, and right now their focus is proving it can withstand orbit.

The first step in this validation process will occur on a valve that is an integral part of the start-up’s thruster, which will be sent into orbit with SpaceX on board Australian space services company’s Skykraft’s rideshare service.

Once the valve demonstrates it can survive a violent launch, 6-G gravitational force, extreme vibrations, and a wide range of temperatures on its journey into space, Valiant Space’s full thruster will be launched on a subsequent orbital mission in mid-2023.

The tech start-up team met at the University of Queensland and started their company while they were students. They identified a gap in the market for space propulsion options that used non-toxic propellants.

Existing options were made from very carcinogenic and difficult-to-handle chemicals which makes them very expensive because of all the development costs. Their thruster runs on nitrous oxide and propane – like those used in a barbecue, but slightly purer – which gives a comparable performance to the toxic options, but without the need for high-cost handling infrastructure.

The team’s solutions will save money at every step of the mission lifecycle, by leveraging a simplified design, rapid manufacturing methods and low-cost propellants. The thruster is mounted on the spacecraft to provide the main propulsion system for the satellite and enables companies to perform fast-acting orbit raising and collision avoidance manoeuvres.

This means that satellites can come online quickly and stay in their optimal orbit and last longer in space. The start-up’s team started their operation at the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Hub workshop in Northgate, Brisbane. The ARM Hub offered them flexibility in leasing, which is fantastic for start-ups, and they have such a large warehouse that has allowed us to expand out as needed.

The ARM Hub staff helped by identifying funding opportunities and helping the team write their first successful Moon to Mars grant. They also helped the team gain exposure to a variety of people, including potential investors, Ministers and MPs.

The start-up recently secured AU$750,000 funding from the Australian Government’s Moon to Mars Initiative supply chain grant, administered by the Australian Space Agency. The team also previously won a Moon to Mars Initiative demonstrator feasibility grant in 2021, to mature their non-toxic thruster technology.

The first grant helped the team to prototype and test their product, which has been instrumental in gaining market traction and momentum. With their second grant, the start-up will be getting flight validation on the product, building the supply chain, and upscaling our propulsion technologies to domestic and international customers.

The thrusters are 3D printed and almost entirely Australian-made. ARM Hub is funded by the Queensland Government, QUT, CSIRO, Urban Arts Project and Innovation Manufacturing CRC.

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