4 mins read 05 May 2021

Hypersonix to use locally produced green hydrogen

 Queensland-based Hypersonix Launch Systems have teamed with BOC to use locally produced Green Hydrogen to power their SPARTAN Scramjet Engines. Hypersonix are aiming to use their engines to deliver small satellite payloads into Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

From left to right: Michael Smart (Head of Research & Development, Hypersonix Launch Systems), David Waterhouse (CEO, Hypersonix Launch Systems), Chris Dolman (Business Development Manager,Clean Hydrogen,BOC) Credit - Hypersonix

Hypersonix, who recently announced an agreement with Boeing to develop a proof of concept sustainable hypersonic satellite launch vehicle, have announced that they will use locally sourced Green Hydrogen in their re-usable SPARTAN Scramjet. The agreement with BOC, a subsidiary of Linde pl, will see BOC supply Green Hydrogen to Hypersonix.  

Hypersonix secured a Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources Accelerating Commercialisation Grant last year, for the design and build of a reusable satellite launch vehicle scramjet engine powered by hydrogen.

"We're very pleased to have found a strong clean hydrogen partner in BOC," said Hypersonix CEO and co-founder David Waterhouse."We both share a desire to bring the principles of the Green Space to the small satellite launch market, and this is something that sets us apart. We are determined to go to space, but in a way that is sustainable for our planet by design."

What is Green Hydrogen?

At the Bulwer Site. From left to right: Michael Smart (Head of Research & Development, Hypersonix Launch Systems), David Waterhouse (CEO, Hypersonix Launch Systems), Chris Dolman (Business Development Manager Clean Hydrogen, BOC) Credit - Hypersonix

Green hydrogen is hydrogen created using renewable energy sources, water is then pumped through an electrolyser which uses the electricity produced by the solar array to separate water into its component parts, hydrogen and oxygen. 

BOC received funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to develop a green hydrogen facility at Bulwer Island, near Brisbane Airport. The facility will incorporate a 220 kW electrolyser and a 100kW solar array. 

"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.” said David Waterhouse.

An environmentally friendly solution is important to Hypersonix, who intend for their staged launch system to be fully re-usable. 

"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." said co-founder and Head of Research and Development at Hypersonix, Michael Smart.

BOC received funding of $950,000 from ARENA in 2019 to build the facility, with a targeted opening date of 2020. However due to COVID-19 related delays in getting the required equipment this has been delayed. According to BOC they are currently in the final stages of construction for the production of Green Hydrogen at the Bulwer Island site. 

The environmental challenges of Launch

A hydrogen fueled car at BOCs Bulwer site. Credit - BOC

With access to space becoming ever more available and demand increasing, in particular for LEO, there has been significant research and investment in green fuels. Recent studies into the emissions from rocket launches have an impact on the atmosphere and in particular the more sensitive region above the ozone layer. 

Hydrogen has long been touted as a “fuel of the future” in everything from cars to buses and now rockets, but it does have some challenges. Those challenges include difficulties in transporting, the fact it can make metals brittle and it’s cost, green Hydrogen, made from renewables can be around $4AUD a litre. It is hoped that the cost will have halved by the end of the decade as the cost of the equipment falls. 

Smart said that significant high quality technology in this area has come out of the automotive industry which Hypersonix have been able to tap into. One challenge that the automotive industry has been keen to solve is that of containing and transporting hydrogen fuel, a breakthrough in that area that has had a direct impact, according to Smart, is the development of high pressure fuel tanks. 

With standard rocket booster propellants emitting black carbon particles and aluminium into the atmosphere it is easy to see the appeal of Hydrogen, whose only emission is water vapour.