Australia working on reusable rockets and hypersonic spaceplanes for small satellites

Australia’s University of Queensland UQ’s Centre for Hypersonics is planning a three-stage transformational space project called SPARTAN, designed to deliver satellites weighing up to 500kgs into orbit and allowing them to be monitored nationally or internationally.

“Currently, there are about 1265 satellites orbiting in space, but the cost to launch a single satellite is astronomical.

“Our project aim is to reduce this cost and make it more economically viable for smaller nations and organisations to launch their own satellites and monitor their own space activity through the development of a reusable space launch system.”

Stage one of the system consists of an Austral Launch Vehicle (ALV), a reusable rocket booster that lifts the upper stages of the rocket to scramjet take-over speed of Mach five, before flying back to base using wings and propellers.

The second stage SPARTAN scramjet will fly like a plane up to Mach 10, releasing the final rocket/satellite that stays in space, before it too returns to base.

Heliaq Advanced Engineering – Developer of the Austral Launch Vehicle

The Austral Launch Vehicle (ALV) is a partially reusable small satellite launch vehicle family being developed from the ground up to significantly reduce the cost of space access and the negative impact of orbital launches on the environment. The project has been in development since 2011.

The SPARTAN scramjet powered accellerator is being developed as a reusable second stage for small launch vehicles by the University of Queensland.

The United States, Russia, India and China have been working hypersonic missiles.
The UK is working on a hypersonic spaceplane (Skylon) for a reusable vehicle for launching satellites.
Elon Musk Spacex and Jeff Bezos Blue Origin have been leaders in developing reusable rockets.
Ariane and other traditional rocket launch players are looking at different reusable rocket approaches.

The combination of the ALV and SPARTAN allows 95 per cent of the system to be reusable.

A subscale demonstrator (ALV-0) with a three-meter wingspan will be flown by the end of 2015.

“It will take off like a normal aircraft, stow the wings and then redeploy them,” Professor Smart said.

“This test flight will focus on the slow speed handling to prove that this prototype can actually work.

“We are trying to concentrate on the new things, not the classic rocketry things that have been done before.”

A follow-on rocket-powered demonstrator is also planned, but is still in the funding stages.