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University of Queensland engineers enter space race with clean, green 3D-printed rocket motors

A team of engineers from the University of Queensland (UQ) who designed a durable and affordable 3D-printed rocket engine has won two awards for their invention

Herick Labs won the Entrepreneur of the Year and People’s Choice awards at UQ’s Ventures ilab accelerator Pitch Night for their oxygen and hydrogen powered engine.

Created in a fraction of the time, cost and carbon footprint of traditional engines, renewable energy sources power Herik Labs’ rocket engine and emit only water vapor.

Co-founders Simone Wilson, Isaiah Stook and Toby van den Herik say the 3D-printed rocket engine design could be used for everything from landing lunar rovers to launching hundreds of satellites at once.

“From improved weather forecasting to solar power in space, the potential is limitless, but to unlock the limitless potential of space we need endless sustainable spaceflight,” said Stook.

Space technology helps connect rural communities, predict natural disasters and provide emergency services with real-time decision support.

Despite Australia’s reliance on space and geographic advantage, it contributes less than 0.5% to the global launch market.

Wilson said that with the development of a national hydrogen strategy and a green hydrogen network in Australia in addition to ramping up its aerospace engineering capabilities, Herik Labs is in the right place at the right time.r “a future in space that protects our future on Earth.”

Wilson said 95% of current rocket launches use polluting engines.

“They can emit more CO2 in a few minutes than a car can in a few centuries,” she said.

“Our design is powered by oxygen and green hydrogen, emits a clean exhaust and uses 85% fewer parts, making it both affordable and quick to manufacture.”

The team has also signed their first client: Aquila, a renewable energy start-up that plans to launch satellites.

“Their vision is global renewable energy, and it’s completely in line with us to make our non-polluting engines,” said Wilson.

Stook said they will look to raise capital, build more partnerships and further establish themselves in the Australian aerospace market in the coming months.

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