21 July 2008

Rowan Gollan considers himself fortunate to be the first person to go to NASA under the new memorandum of understanding (MOU) between The University of Queensland and NASA.

UQ researcher and imminent PhD graduate Mr Gollan, 27, will visit NASA Langley for a year starting in August 2008 as part of a two-year experimental and numerical hypersonics study. He is part of a new breed of Australian space researchers being trained in UQ’s Centre for Hypersonics.

Hypersonics is the study of velocities of Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound) or more.

According to Mr Gollan, it is important for Australia to be doing space research because Australia has the potential to have commercial launch services, for example from Christmas Island, because its proximity to the equator makes it an ideal satellite launch site.

Equatorial launch sites give an advantage to launching communications satellites by reducing the rocket’s fuel needs, enabling the same rocket to launch heavier satellites than it could from locations further from the equator.

“It is important that we have a body of trained professionals in the area of space research in Australia, for down the track,” he said.

Head of UQ's HyShot Group and the Chair of Hypersonic Propulsion, Professor Michael Smart, worked on this exchange agreement with NASA 10 months ago. So far, UQ has had one visitor from NASA and Mr Gollan will be the first to represent UQ under this agreement.

“I will be there in a research position, contributing to a project for which I have spent the past six months at UQ learning about, under the supervision of Professor Michael Smart,” Mr Gollan said.

His passion for aeronautics started when he was learning about astronomy in high school.

“I wanted a degree that has some sort of job security while still being able to maintain my interest in space studies,” Mr Gollan said.

Mr Gollan completed a four-year Bachelor of Engineering degree at UQ in 2001, majoring in mechanical and space engineering and was awarded first class honours. He subsequently received an Australian Postgraduate Award to begin his PhD study in 2002.

Outside his passion for hypersonics, Mr Gollan is a master of the oboe and has played with the Queensland Youth Orchestra Wind Symphony and the Queensland Wind Orchestra.

Having played the oboe for 16 years, Mr Gollan still describes himself as a “keen amateur, and not quite a professional”.

Once back from his stint at NASA, Mr Gollan said he might pursue an academic career, although he has no firm plans yet and will use the next 12 months to see what options are available.

Mr Gollan is still awaiting his visa approval and hopes to be flying off in the first week of August.

UQ’s Centre for Hypersonics, one of the largest space engineering University groups in the world, conducts research into all aspects of hypersonic flight.

Hypersonic aerodynamics has been a major research activity at UQ over the last 20 years. The researchers in this group have bee active internationally and are involved in collaborative research programs with about 20 universities and research organisations around the world.

Media: Rowan Gollan telephone 3365 3587 or Charu Agarwal at UQ Communications 3365 2339