The Sky Is No Longer the Limit

Innovation  Careers 

On July 1st the Australian government finally entered the space race with the Australian Space Agency. While there’s been much excitement about the launch, the reality is that local companies are have been active in the sector for some time, including Gilmour Space Technologies on the Gold Coast.

Brothers James and Adam Gilmour began their low cost hybrid rocket program in 2014 and their company already has an agreement with NASA, along with strong interest from the US military for their 3D printed fuel. Last week four of the company’s bright young engineers and physicists took part in a careers forum called Space 2.0 at the TAFE Coomera campus to discuss the exciting career opportunities in the industry.

James Gilmour was a guest speaker at the event and shared his insights into the burgeoning local sector, 49 years after man first walked on the moon.

“I like to think that we’re in the midst of a space renaissance, brought on by adventurous, lateral thinking businessmen like Elon Musk and Richard Branson, who have chosen to invest their own money into the development of space technology. Outside of those high profile, high fliers there’s plenty of startups who have been developing a range of both upstream and downstream ventures - from launch to GPS, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, data management and the exploration of capabilities using AI.”

Getting Ready to Launch

Gilmour says that seven years ago when he and his brother Adam first decided to head down this path there was no shortage of people telling them they had Buckley’s chance of getting it off the ground.

“Jules Verne said that anything one person can imagine another person can achieve. I believe that we’ve come to a stage in human history where anything is possible now given the advancements in technology. It’s hard to define success and while we’re now starting to bear fruit from our hard work we still have a long way to go. The amazing part for us is to see the buzz that’s now been generated by what we’ve done and that people are really getting a kick out of it. It would be nice to look back on this time in a decade from now and see that we were the instigators of something really special.”

One of their biggest challenges was sourcing talent. With no local industry to speak of and so few opportunities for aerospace engineers it was hardly an incentive for budding space cadets to pursue a non-existent career unless they were prepared to move offshore.

“The procurement of talent has been tricky in an industry that’s still in its infancy locally. You need to find people with not only the requisite skills, but also the right mindset. You do have to take a substantial amount of risk, particularly with the younger, untried academics, but as we’ve seen here today they are quickly becoming the leaders in their field. And that’s both inspiring and humbling at the same time.

“We’ve had to enlist some talent from overseas because Australia hasn’t been a typical breeding ground for senior aerospace engineers, but we’re already seeing that change very quickly. Just being here today at TAFE will be a further catalyst for the sector by showcasing the many potential career opportunities that are opening up now in the sector.”

TAFE Space 4 2

Gilmour Space Technologies’ propulsion team members (l to r): Kristin Stewart, Nick McLean, Jay Craig, Jacob Sheehy

Lift Off

Initially the Gilmour brothers established a space flight academy, which provided simulated astronaut training as a tourist attraction to help fund their research and development. Since setting up their R & D program they’ve tapped into the local education sector.

“We’ve been so impressed by the input provided by the great universities and educational institutions on the Gold Coast” says James. “They’ve been very generous with their support of our industry. Holistically Queensland is in many ways the aerospace capital of Australia and obviously it was a logical progression for us to move into the development of space technology here.

“There’s so much to gain from this because the employment opportunities extend beyond the development of propulsion. The industry will need people with skills in IT, construction, security, maintenance, fabrication – any number of things. It’s not just about people who have degrees in propulsion, the job titles for the future in this industry aren’t even defined yet. When you start looking at the possibilities of AI or machine learning the mind boggles at what will be possible in the next decade.”

The Future

James says the potential for the Australian industry to grow exponentially was very exciting.

“Put it this way – the sky is no longer the limit. Jeff Bezos wants to engage in manufacturing for low Earth orbit, Elon Musk wants to send people to Mars, Richard Branson’s thing is space tourism. We’re thinking it would be great to send people to the moon with our rockets.

“Prior to the creation of the National Space Agency, the Australian space sector already had 10,000 full time equivalent employees generating revenues of around $3 to $4 billion.
If we can increase our percentage to that of a worldwide business with say, two to four per cent over the next 10 to 20 years, we will need tens of thousands more VET and graduate skilled employees in space based careers.”

Gilmour Space Technologies will be launching their G70 hybrid rocket’s 40km vertical test later this year.

**For more information check out the Gilmour Space Technologies site:

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