To the outsider, the word ‘aerospace’ can conjure notions of fantastic adventures beyond our world. For those within the industry – like Southern Cross University engineering graduate Mitch Lavelle – reality is more down to Earth.
Mitch is a mechanical engineer at Gilmour Space Technologies, leading provider of Australian-made launch vehicles and satellite platforms. Established on the Gold Coast in 2015, the company is on track to launch its Eris rockets and G-class satellite (G-Sat) platforms into Low Earth Orbits (LEO) this year.
“I am the Responsible Engineer for the first stage main oxidiser tank, as well as the entire second stage of our Eris Block 1 vehicle, with oversight and hands-on roles across the areas of design, analysis, manufacturing, testing and integration,” said Mitch.
“Aerospace is engineering at another level. You have very tight margins of safety in your designs, you are working with extreme temperature and vibration environments, and you need to meet very strict mass budgets. And everything is capped by the reality that you are building something to leave Earth.
“Fortunately, I’m part of an amazing team aiming to achieve something important for the future of the Australian aerospace industry. As an engineer, I count my lucky stars – so to speak – because it is such an exciting space in which to work.”
Space is the operative word. As the aerospace industry continues to grow exponentially, what was once ‘the final frontier’ draws ever closer. Thousands of satellite launches are planned for the next few years, so transporting these and other payloads – including astronauts and future space tourists – is big business.
“I'm a young engineer and the next 20 years in aerospace is going to see huge expansion,” said Mitch. “That includes the goal of putting an Australian astronaut in space in an Australian rocket in the next decade.”
The seeds of Mitch’s engineering career were planted on the family macadamia farm at Casino in the Northern Rivers of NSW. Many childhood hours were spent tinkering with go-karts, farm vehicles, radios, tools and other machinery.
After starting his degree at the University of Sydney, Mitch relocated to Southern Cross University in 2016 and was a member of the first student cohort for the Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering. He graduated with First Class Honours in 2019 and joined Gilmour Space Technologies in January 2021.
He looks back fondly on his time at Southern Cross University.
“The course material was high standard, but the biggest advantage was such ready access to the lecturers. I thrived on that,” he said.
“Being in a smaller cohort allows you to make stronger connections. A more individual and intimate approach sharpened my skill set and my initiative and it gave me a strong work ethic that I am applying now at Gilmour Space.”
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