Queensland space company Hypersonix Launch Systems has signed a deal with gas company BOC to supply it with green hydrogen to fuel zero emissions rockets.
The project, which has altogether received around $2 million in federal government funding, will use green hydrogen produced by BOC to send a satellite into space.
The idea is that green hydrogen would power Hypersonix’s reusable SPARTAN scramjet engines, which can carry satellites into low-level orbit.
Hypersonix received just over $1 million from the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources through its Accelerating Commercialisation grant program.
BOC received $950,000 from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to develop a green hydrogen production and refuelling pilot project in Brisbane.
Hypersonix chief executive David Waterhouse said he was “determined to go to space, but in a way that is sustainable for our planet by design”.
“Hydrogen is our fuel of choice because of its proven versatility and performance compared to fossil fuels. Its environmental credentials are hard to beat, with the only emission being water vapour,” he said.
The company’s head of research and development and former NASA rocket scientist Michael Smart said the combination of reusable space craft and clean energy made it a much more environmentally friendly alternative to the more common one-use, carbon emitting rockets used to launch satellites.
“Our deep-tech solution will ensure that our precious oceans do not become dumping grounds for single use rockets and boosters, and that our SPARTAN scramjet engines do not add further CO2 or Methane emissions to the atmosphere,” he said.
Green hydrogen’s use in spacecraft is far from proven. Indeed green hydrogen – which is manufactured by using renewably-generated electricity to split water atoms into hydrogen and oxygen – for any purpose is still a long way from being a proven alternative to much cheaper hydrocarbon fuels.
Still, resources are being pumped into its development by businesses and government around the world, and BOC said it was confident the fuel had a future in aviation and land transport.
“Both the automotive and the aviation sectors are well along the path to making the use of hydrogen fuel as a clean fuel option for day-to-day use,” said BOC’s head of green hydrogen Chris Dolman.
James Fernyhough is a reporter at RenewEconomy. He has worked at The Australian Financial Review and the Financial Times, and is interested in all things related to climate change and the transition to a low-carbon economy.