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Queensland fires up the space race with plans to launch a Valiant into orbit

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For years various governments, stretching back to Joh Bjelke-Petersen, talked about developing a space base in Queensland, but it was always treated as one of those pre-election headline grabs that never really went anywhere.

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But it has.

Start-ups are emerging in Queensland to take advantage of decreasing costs of getting to space, brought about by companies like SpaceX.

And the Queensland Government this week approved of Abbot Point being used by Gilmour Space to launch rockets – that’s the same Abbot Point where Adani has its coal port and has been the subject of environmental controversies.

Valiant Space is one of the new entries to the sector and next year it aims to hitch a ride into orbit to test its satellite propulsion system.

It will also go to the market later this year for an investment round to continue the development process, according to chief executive Andrew Uscinski.

“It definitely isn’t a cheap process, but it’s not out of the realms of possibility,’’ he told InQueensland.

Valiant sits alongside companies like Gilmour, Hypersonix and Black Sky Aerospace as emerging Queensland space companies and its mission is to “accelerate humanity’s off-world ambitions’’ by developing a non-toxic propulsion system for satellites in space.

Rockets have already been fired from the so-called Funny Farm, a test site near Goondiwindi.

Valiant’s reason for existence is the 6000 satellites orbiting the earth and the emerging problem of how they get out of each other’s way. Current propulsion systems use highly carcinogenic chemicals.

“While that is in space it’s all well and good but someone needs to put those on the space craft in the first place,’’ Uscinski said.

“That costs a lot of money and makes a lot of complications that people really don’t want to deal with.

“With the wave of new space companies that have been created by lower launch costs (brought about by companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX) it means that there are a lot more satellite companies and start-ups that are trying to provide more services with satellites,’’ Uscinski said.

“The design methodology they have had to adopt in the initial stages of their development is to have no propulsion on board which means after a certain amount of time they just re-enter the atmosphere and they have to put up more satellites, more often.

“Because the toxic options are so prohibitively expensive we are providing the same performance without a barrier to entry.

“The other thing that made us tend towards this direction is that there are a lot regulations that are being imposed because of the rapid expansion to mitigate against space debris.

“We have begun testing our engines. We have done a hot fire testing campaign which meant we put the engine and the thrusters through its paces, designing and iterating better performance and reliability and what we are looking at over the remainder of the year is continuing that development.”

He said the company was aiming to be in space by the end of next year.

“What we are looking for now is to share a ride into space on someone else’s technology to prove our technology,” he said.

“It’s cutting edge for Australian technology. We are definitely in a good position with a few propulsion company and there are testing facilities but we take pride in punching above our weight.”

 

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