5 mins read 22 Jul 2021

Hypersonix Launch Systems and Romar sign framework agreement

Hypersonix Launch Systems have signed a framework agreement to collaborate with Sydney-based manufacturing company, Romar. 

Left to right: Steve Milanoski (Romar Engineering, Head of Additive Manufacturing, Ryan Whitside (Hypersonix, Scramjet Propulsion Engineer), Michael Smart (Hypersonix, CTO, Head of R&D and Co-Founder), David Waterhouse (Hypersonix, Managing Director), Nina Patz (Hypersonix, Head of Marketing/Business Development), Alan Lipman (Romar Engineering, CEO). Credit: Hypersonix

Hypersonix, who recently successfully demonstrated their Spartan Scramjet, have signed an agreement to work with Sydney based specialist manufacturing company, Romar. The agreement will see Hypersonix and Romar develop scalable solutions for spaceflight using advanced manufacturing techniques.  

The two Australian companies have signed a framework agreement under which they will collaborate on manufacturing techniques such as Additive Manufacturing to support a commercially viable space industry. 

“[This is] an early step in terms of us identifying manufacturing partners. So, what our plan is to build a minimum viable product (MVP) that we can use to demonstrate the hypersonic capabilities,” said Hypersonix Managing Director, David Waterhouse. 

“[We want it to be] reusable and cost-effective and in an environmentally sustainable way, launch satellites up into space,” he continued. 

Earlier this year Hypersonix successfully demonstrated their Spartan scramjet, showing that it could achieve speeds of up to Mach 10. 

“We've had a very solid, 18 months in terms of taking the design-forward, getting our investors on board and then pushing the technology. I think now we're entering that next phase. We're actually going to start building things. So to date, the things we've built the test rigs and [done] the testing side of things. Now we're starting to build things we're actually going to fly,” said Waterhouse. 

Space-X Experience

Hot fire testing of the SpaceX Raptor engine in 2016. Credit: SpaceX

Romar recently received the largest individual grant of $5.8 Million, given out as part of the Australian Governments Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI), under the space pillar. The company is well known within the medical device industry and is looking to extend their capabilities. Romar has moved quickly over the past few years to take their engineering expertise and deep understanding of metal additive manufacturing into the fast-growing space sector.

Romar’s Head of Additive Manufacturing, Steve Milanoski, is no stranger to the space industry, having moved from his role at SpaceX in 2019 to join the company. His knowledge is second to none when it comes to the design and manufacture of fluid and motion control devices incorporating metal additive manufacturing. It is within this area that Romar is looking to use their recently awarded grant. 

“We are excited to show off our capabilities in additive manufacturing and are very happy to get this opportunity working with the Hypersonix team. Their purpose of flying to space in a green and sustainable way with re-usable engines and launch vehicles powered by green hydrogen has fascinated us since the day we met them earlier this year,” said Milanoski.

“Our hypersonic platform is predominantly going to be composites but there are still a number of metal components as part of that and, Romar, we think is really leading the pack in terms of that ability to 3D print metal alloy components that we'd need for full flight,” added Waterhouse. 

“With the MMI grant and this framework agreement, it is all coming together quite nicely. For Romar this is only the start, we have big plans ahead and I know for a fact so does the team at Hypersonix. Working together will help us both bring these to fruition,“ said CEO of Romar Engineering, Alan Lipman.

Additive Manufacturing

Blown powder directed energy deposition can produce large structures – such as these engine nozzles – cheaper and quicker than traditional fabrication techniques. Credit: NASA

Milanoski, who started his career in the US Navy, is the driving force behind Romar’s push into the space industry. His work at SpaceX saw him developing new technologies for large format additive parts for the Raptor engine program.  

Additive Manufacturing (AM) is typically used to manufacture viable components, mass-producing complex parts in more economical ways. 3D printing, which is regularly used interchangeably with AM, is a type of AM that focuses more on prototypes and one-off pieces. 

The advantage of AM over casting or moulding is there is no need for an expensive mould, and complex intricate shapes can be made in one process reducing both manufacturing complexity and assembly time. There is currently significant research being done into multi-material AM, which uses a number of different materials to create a complex end product. 

The space industry is looking to AM to help reduce costs and create a more iterative design process, as it is easier to make small incremental changes to products using this process. According to Milanoski, the first AM part in space was a rocket engine check valve. 

“[At] SpaceX we didn't have [the] quantity [of valves and the] design maturity was not at a point where we were in a position to invest tens of thousands of dollars into permanent tooling,” he said of his time at SpaceX

“Steve has a lot of experience in this sector, so we said it's a collaborative arrangement, where we will sit down and say, hey, this is the big problem we've got to solve. Do you have some ideas how we might do that, cost-effectively and in a way that is both good value and low risk,” said Waterhouse, with consideration on the upcoming collaborative work between Hypersonix and Romar. 

“Our aim is to do our first flight in 28 months and we are working towards that. There's a lot of bits and pieces that have got to come together to make that happen. The building is part of it, but there's also things like the regulatory environment of launch sites and all that sort of stuff to organize so we’ve got another very busy period ahead of us. It never gets boring,” concluded Waterhouse.