Small Satellites Travel To Space Via Reusable Launch System

First Posted: Dec 29, 2015 01:58 PM EST

Researchers were a step closer to sending satellites into space through the use of a reusable launch system. On Dec 23 researchers at the University of Queensland had one of the first successful instances with the Austral Launch Vehicle (ALV), which was designed to return to base after transporting a satellite into space.

"I think there is real potential for Australia to become the 'go-to' country for small satellite launches, and I see this as playing a vital role in Australia's innovation revolution," Professor Michael Smart, who is the UQ Chair of Hypersonic Propulsion, said in a news release.

The majority of single-use launch systems for small satellites can be quite costly to send satellites into orbit, according to Smart. He claimed that once launch systems travel to their designated trajectory, they drop and fall into the ocean. However, the ALV is quite different.

"It is a rocket booster in the usual sense, but instead of falling into the ocean once it has done its job, it deploys wings and a propeller motor, so it can safely return to base," Smart said. "UQ has a great interest in this new technology since we have worked for many years to develop reusable scramjet vehicles that fly like planes.

A combination of the ALV and a UQ scramjet means that 85 percent of a satellite launch system could be reusable, according to Smart.

"This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Australia to become a part of the space sector," said.

After a successful launch, the researchers are exploring for a market, with a projected demand for 400 satellites in 2016.

The UQ team collaborated with Brisbane-based start-up companies Heliaq Advanced Engineering and Australian Droid and Robot to develop a rocket system which can be reused again.

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