Australian start-up Hypersonix Launch Systems is gearing up to bring a zero-emission spaceplane into commercial use, operating much the same as a traditional airline — without the passengers.
Speaking with Australian Aviation, Hypersonix co-founder and head of research and development Michael Smart said once his company’s spaceplane is fully developed, “We would fly to space like you fly with Qantas”.
He shared that his company’s spaceplanes will fly to space regularly to deploy small satellites into low-Earth orbit (LEO), and will be a cheaper and more sustainable alternative to rockets.
Smart was talking in Australian Aviation’s last print issue. To find out more and subscribe, click here.
The emerging spaceplane industry was thrown a curveball when space development giants like SpaceX started to tout the use of reusable rockets.
However, Smart said that the Hypersonix model paired with its robust supply chain still makes spaceplanes the more commercially viable — and environmentally friendly — option for LEO drops.
“Our supply chain is more like an aircraft system than a space system … it’s quite different,” he said, noting that, like Qantas aircraft, the Hypersonix spaceplane will be refurbished and undergo maintenance as required, and has a much faster turnaround to return to the sky than spacecraft and rockets.
“Right now, 90 per cent of almost everyone except SpaceX throw away every bit of their rocket system every time, and it’s just so wasteful … and it’s seriously expensive,” Smart said.
And yet, Smart says this Australian spaceplane company won’t try to compete with the likes of SpaceX, which sends payloads of up to 10,000kg into space at one time. Meanwhile, Hypersonix operates with payloads of around 300kg.
“Our focus is to use this new technology to prove it in the small satellite market first because it has broader possibilities for hypersonic aircraft,” Smart said.
“This smallsat marketplace is actually quite a nice business to prove our technology. A lot of the other players really struggle with launch costs because if you throw your rocket away every time, it’s really hard to create cheap launch …
“It might be the reason why initially we’ll be able to compete very strongly with other small satellite launchers.”