Analysis and Commentary

Why we built a unique space propulsion system – by Andrew Uscinski

Analysis and Commentary

Valiant Space has been awarded a $200,000 grant as part of the Australian Space Agency’s Moon to Mars Initiative to develop Australia’s first in-space chemical thruster. Here Andrew Uscinski explains what motivated him to establish Valiant Space, and partner with space services company Skykraft for its maiden flight to space onboard a Skykraft satellite.

Valiant Space started in 2018 after I met my co-founder, Michael Douw, whom I shared a passion for spaceflight with.

We both knew that we could be doing more to pursue our ambitions, so we set our efforts towards building Valiant’s first rocket engine, Momentum.

Fast forward to today, and we are set to become Australia’s first and only sovereign in-space chemical propulsion provider.

But why is this an important capability?

The need for propulsion can be attributed to decreasing launch costs which has led to a rapid growth in the number of small satellites for space-based services, including global communications, Internet-of-Things, and Earth observation.

As orbits become more congested, there is growing regulatory pressure for satellites to be able to perform collision avoidance and de-orbiting manoeuvres.

Additionally, to remain competitive, satellite operators are needing to extend the life of their assets and minimise the time it takes to get to their ideal orbit to prevent lost revenue.

All these factors point towards a greater demand for high-thrust in-space propulsion solutions, the market for which is currently underserved.

Valiant’s new in-space thruster will offer numerous advantages over the current options on the market which force compromises upon satellite integrators and operators.

Namely, our thrusters use non-toxic propellants, have a lower electrical power draw, and output a higher thrust than existing options.

We have already begun hot-fire testing, putting each design iteration of the thruster through its paces.

Over the next 12 months, we will be maturing our technology as far as possible through ground testing, in preparation for launch in the coming years.

I think a key part of our success has been our manufacturing and procurement philosophy, whereby we always prioritise local supply chains.

Being able to manufacture parts locally in Australia has allowed us to accelerate our development times and minimise overheads associated with importing from overseas.

It also gives us a great deal of pride to be able to help foster local talent which is far too often overlooked.

I am eager to work with more Australian manufacturers and suppliers as our company grows, especially in light of our already positive experiences on our past projects.

The coming year will be a very exciting time in the history of Valiant, and in the history of the Australian space industry.

We strongly believe that commercialisation and access to space will be essential to the future of humanity, and this will be our biggest step yet towards fulfilling our vision.

Andrew Uscinski is an engineer who developed a keen interest in aerospace and space at an early age. He has worked with unmanned aerial systems and used aircraft and 3D visualisation to monitor asset integrity, before moving into the aerospace field. In 2018 he co-founded Valiant Space, where he is the CEO.

Picture: Andrew Uscinski

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